Following Up: Should Cops Live in the Neighborhoods they Police?

We follow up on a theme that emerged during our special with WBEZ on gun violence in New York and Chicago. How much does it matter that police live in or be familiar with the neighborhoods they police? Should cops be required to live in their beat neighborhoods? Cops and residents alike, call 212-433-9692, or post your comment here.

Caller Preston, in Chicago, the son of a former beat cop, explains the nostalgia that many feel for that time.

There was a time when beat cops were really, really common in Chicago. Police officers were able to work in the same neighborhoods for years. You build a relationship, you knew who lived in the neighborhood, you knew what car didn’t belong in the neighborhood. If a crime was committed, you probably have a pretty good idea [who did it]. …That relationship is gone in Chicago right now. …Because of that, you’ve got people who can do things in sort of relative anonymity.

Caller Ralph from the Bronx, who grew up in public housing, agrees, and points out that in New York, officers usually don’t live in the neighborhoods they police.

The only thing that’s gonna change this problem is if the cops are familiar with community and the community is familiar with the police officers. …The cops that are coming in and out of the community are going home to different areas that have nothing to do with public housing.

→ UPDATE (4/22): The NYPD responded to our request for information about whether police are assigned to communities they're familiar with. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne responded:

The NYPD assigns personnel based on the needs of the department, but it tries to accommodate officers' preferences that often reflect a desire to make their commutes as short as possible. However, the department has a prohibition against officers residing within the same precinct to which they are assigned in order to avoid potential conflicts if called upon to take enforcement action against neighbors or others they may know personally.