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Second, we link Vaisey’s theory with the macrolevel cultural schema of legal cynicism.
At the neighborhood level, legal cynicism reflects a shared disbelief in the law, police, and justice system.
These patterns are independent of statistical controls for an array of potentially confounding variables.
The implication is that in the absence of alternatives, and despite past and continuing perceived police ineffectiveness, residents in racially isolated and disadvantaged neighborhoods will continue to call 911, seeking crime prevention and protection by police.
We show how structural forces combine with legal cynicism and contribute to neighborhood variation in 911 calls for help despite distrust of police.
Our results suggest police failures to prevent crime and provide protection—more than procedural legitimacy—explain America’s racially troubled police–community relations. He notes that in interviews people’s narratives about their thoughts are often contradictory, suggesting both processes and a divided self. It is the enduring, internalized nature of these schema-driven choices that make them persistent rather than transitory.
Independent of police reports of crime, we find that neighborhood racial segregation in 1990 and the legal cynicism about crime prevention and protection it engenders have lasting effects on 911 calls more than a decade later, in 2006–2008.
Common explanations include over-policing and negative interactions with police, but police reports of crime are heavily dependent on resident 911 calls.
However, as Sampson and Wilson (20, 21) note, microlevel phenomena such as trust and confidence may be inadequate for explaining macro-, neighborhood level variation in crime reporting.
We argue that neighborhood-level legal cynicism that arises from police failures in prevention and protection more strongly influences crime reporting and undermines police–community relations in minority neighborhoods.
Elaborated in this way, legal cynicism highlights the failure of both law and its agents—the police—to prevent unlawful behavior or provide protection.
Like other cultural frames, such as collective efficacy, legal cynicism operates at the individual and neighborhood level.
It is high in racially isolated communities (15) but paradoxically stimulates calls for more police assistance.