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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Life in Hampton Roads, Part II: Policing Efforts Approved by Community

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Despite recent controversies across the country between police and citizens, Hampton Roads residents maintain relatively high levels of satisfaction with local police in general. However, there are significant differences between perceptions of police based on race and city of residence.

Those are the key findings of the crime and police section of the seventh annual Life in Hampton Roads (LIHR) survey, produced by Old Dominion University's Social Science Research Center.

The telephone survey found that more than 83 percent of the nearly 1,000 respondents are very or somewhat satisfied with police, though some identified crime as a negative factor in the quality of life in Hampton Roads.

"While overall satisfaction with the police remained fairly consistent with previous years, those reporting they are very satisfied with the local police increased by almost 3 percent," said Randy Gainey, professor of sociology and criminal justice and faculty director of the Social Science Research Center.

In the four years that the LIHR survey has asked about satisfaction with the local police, the percentage reporting that they are very or somewhat dissatisfied was at its highest in 2015. It decreased this year by 2.2 percent, to just more than 15 percent.

The survey, which seeks to determine the attitudes and perceptions of Hampton Roads citizens on a variety of subjects, found significant differences in the perception of police in different cities and between white and African-American respondents.

More than 93 percent of Chesapeake residents and nearly 87 percent of Virginia Beach residents reported being very or somewhat satisfied with local police, compared with 77 percent of Newport News residents and less than 70 percent of Portsmouth residents.

With regard to race, 90.7 percent of white respondents and 73.4 percent of blacks were very or somewhat satisfied with the police in general. Conversely, more than one-quarter of African-American respondents said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the police, compared with less than 10 percent of white respondents.

About two-thirds of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that citizens with prior felony convictions should be allowed to vote.

Just under two-thirds felt those with prior felony convictions should be able to apply for state jobs. Sixty percent of respondents felt landlords should not be allowed to automatically disqualify those with prior felony convictions from renting housing.

The LIHR survey is coordinated by Randy Gainey and Tancy Vandecar-Burdin, director and associate director of the Social Science Research Center, respectively. The survey also receives support from the Old Dominion Office of Research and the College of Arts and Letters.

The survey includes responses gathered from 962 Hampton Roads residents via landline and cell phone. The report is made up of six sections, which will be released on the following days (the Social Science Research Center news release is available for the first two days of the LIHR survey by clicking the link):

Monday, Sept. 26 - Quality of life

Tuesday, Sept. 27 - Crime and police

Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Health and education

Thursday, Sept. 29 - Transportation

Friday, Sept. 30 - Sea level rise and flooding

Monday, Oct. 3 - Presidential politics

The entire report will be available after Oct 3. on the Social Science Research Center website.

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