Thomas Chalmers McLaughlin, Ph.D., co-director of the UNE Social Work Center for Research and Evaluation, is assisting the Portland Police Department to organize and implement an online survey to gauge residents’ opinions about crime, police effectiveness and overall safety in the city. Information gathered will be used to help guide the department in its crime reduction efforts, community policing initiatives, and ways to strengthen relationships within the community.
Prior to a career in social work, McLaughlin was an officer with the Biddeford Police Department for 13 years. This research project exhibits just one example of the ways in which these field overlap. In an interview with UNE, McLaughlin said “the goal is to provide community, nonprofit organizations with the tools to do their own program evaluation [ . . .] UNE is a big part of the Portland community, and I feel that we need to give back.”
In a recent article, Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald eloquently addresses the challenges inherent in measuring ones’ feeling of safety. “Some people leave their houses unlocked in the middle of the city,” McLaughlin tells Nemitz. “Other people would never do that because someone will come in and take everything they own. It’s definitely a personal kind of perception.” McLaughlin was born and raised in a rural Maine town with no traffic lights and a limited number of stop signs. Comfortable roaming the woods and with the sounds of Maine wilderness, his perception of safety would be quite different from say, someone raised in an urban abode where cacophonous traffic, honking, and sirens perhaps make for soothing backdrop.
The Survey Questions will examine how well the police respond to crimes and what residents believe are pressing public safety issues in their neighborhoods. Links to the survey are available on the city and police department website as well as the facebook page.
The aim is to run the survey through February 2019, crunch the numbers, and present the report to the chief of police by the end of March. McLaughlin will analyze the data and help police look at trends. In turn, that will help guide department decisions about crime reduction and community policing. Though establishing a community wide sense of safety is no easy feat, this survey will certainly provide helpful insight into community perception and lead to informative policing strategies.