Since August 1994, the LPD has been administering perception of safety surveys in neighborhoods throughout the city. The purpose of the surveys is to gain valuable information and input from residents about their feeling of safety, and about the police departments effectiveness in the city. The goal of the surveys is to obtain information about specific neighborhood issues and suggestions from residents about strategies to address quality of life issues.
In 1994, LPD staff met with representatives from the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Family, Work and Community to design a survey to gather pertinent information from neighborhood residents that would assist the LPD in providing the most effective prevention and intervention services to those who live and work in the City of Lowell. After researching existing surveys throughout the country, a survey was developed for the Lowell community.
The group decided that surveys would be administered in the neighborhoods where storefront precincts were scheduled to open, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the precinct prior to its opening, and approximately one year after. The system developed included the random selection of a percentage of homes in each of the neighborhoods, the organization of teams of surveyors, and the presentation of information. In order to obtain a representative sample of residents in each neighborhood, teams selected every tenth household on each street within the survey area. A total of 1% of the total number of residents in that area was surveyed. Teams were formed from University staff, LPD officers and neighborhood volunteers. Each team was given a specific list of residences to be surveyed.
The LPD has administered pre- and posttest surveys in the Highlands and Back Central neighborhoods. Pretest surveys have been administered in the Belvidere and Centralville neighborhoods. The remaining neighborhoods will be surveyed in the near future. Results of surveys thus far indicate residents feel police visibility has increased with the placement of neighborhood precincts and that the police are generally more accessible to residents. The results are used in conjunction with crime-related statistics to direct LPD efforts.