The Effects of Police Contact and Neighborhood Context on Delinquency and Violence

Joselyne L. Chenane, Emily M. Wright, Yan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We examined both main effects and cross-level effects of prior criminal justice contact on delinquency and violence. Using multilevel longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development on Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN, 1994–2001), this paper addresses a lack of clarity on the effect of police contact on delinquency and violence. We found that police contacts (three types) were associated with increases in delinquency and violence. These effects remained robust after controlling for individual‐level covariates such as low self‐control. Importantly, the effect of jail contact on the number of delinquent acts a youth engages in was stronger in neighborhoods with high levels of legal cynicism. Paradoxically, however, youths with prior police contacts were more delinquent when they lived in neighborhoods that had higher levels of satisfaction with police. Our study provides a more nuanced understanding of the correlation between police contact and future offending and offers insights into how neighborhood characteristics may worsen the effect of police contact, as well as the importance of dissecting types of contact with the justice system. The study offers policy implications for law enforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-518
Number of pages24
JournalVictims and Offenders
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Police contact
  • delinquency and violence
  • legal cynicism
  • neighborhood context
  • police satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Law


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