A will to participate: Individual responses to community safety and violence prevention

Kristine Mamchur Sands (2003)

This study, using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, investigates individual willingness for community participation, type of participation, and an inquiry into the relationship between participation and feelings of community connection. Data was collected through open-ended survey questions, which were part of a larger survey on safety, respect, and violence prevention in a small New England city. A literal analysis of the responses, using quantitative procedures, described willingness to help, suggestions for improvement, and larger community concerns. An interpretive analysis read for emotional tone, attitudes, opinions, and observations that revealed feelings and experiences of community living, connection, and/or isolation. Results of these analyses were compared to demographics and selected questions from the larger survey using statistical analysis. Results demonstrate that most people who responded to the open-ended questions endorsed willingness to participate, and that there is a relationship between participation and feelings of connection. Those who scored high on connection and safety factors in the larger survey expressed more subjective feelings of connection and safety through the narrative questions. Types of participation, suggestions for community improvement, and concerns regarding safety and violence are described and examples of participants' responses are provided. Limitations of the study, areas for further research, and implications for civic planning are described.