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American Journal of Criminal Justice


Despite a great deal of theoretical and empirical attention given to racial residential segregation and its influence on a number of social problems in the United States, few scholars have examined the role that this persistent form of racial inequality plays in shaping the magnitude of formal social control efforts. Our study examines this relationship by assessing the potential influence that the isolation of minorities may have on efforts to control crime in urban centers across the United States. Using a pooled time-series regression technique well suited for the analysis of aggregate, longitudinal data, we assess the potential influence of racial segregation on the size of municipal police departments in 170 U.S. cities between 1980 and 2010. After accounting for minority group size, economic threat, crime, and disorganization, we find that racial residential segregation has a significant non-linear effect on police force size. Cities with the most racially integrated populations have the smallest police presence but at very high levels of segregation, police strength levels off. This finding is consistent with expectations derived from the contact hypothesis. Under such conditions, majority group members appear to be less inclined to demand greater crime control measures such as increased police protection. Period interactions with residential segregation also suggest that this relationship has grown stronger in each decade since 1980. Overall, our study provides strong support for threat theories and the contact hypothesis but offers necessary refinements.


DOI 10.1007/s12103-013-9212-8