American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 334–351 | Cite as

Predicting Fear of Crime: Results from a Community Survey of a Small City

  • Michelle A. BolgerEmail author
  • P. Colin Bolger


Several studies have examined predictors surrounding fear of crime. Fear of crime has generally been conceptualized as an affective emotional state regarding concern over victimization or as a cognitive state of perceived risk of victimization. While there are many potential predictors of fear of crime, there are two main groups of predictors: individual demographics and neighborhood physical and social disorder. Previous research has predominantly focused on large, urban cities. Less research has been published surrounding smaller cities and towns. As such, the current study involved a mailed household survey of a small city of around 80,000 residents in Pennsylvania. The study examined demographic predictors in line with the vulnerability model and neighborhood contextual predictors of residents’ fear of crime associated with the incivilities model. While the main analyses employed a more affective measure of fear of crime, a supplementary analysis using a measure of perceived neighborhood crime problems was examined as well. Findings revealed that in line with previous research, females and minorities were more likely to be fearful of crime. However, less favorable views of local police, more physical disorder, and more social disorder were also related to greater fear of crime and accounted for a much larger proportion of the variance explaining fear of crime. Supplementary findings strongly supported the importance of neighborhood contextual factors in predicting perceptions of crime problems, including the views of police, physical, and social disorder. However, no demographic factors predicted perceived neighborhood crime problems. Implications and limitations of the study findings are discussed.


Fear of crime Neighborhood disorder Vulnerability model Perceived crime problems 



This study was funded entirely by DeSales University.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Sciences: Criminal JusticeDeSales UniversityCenter ValleyUSA
  2. 2.Kutztown University of PennsylvaniaDepartment of Criminal JusticeKutztownUSA

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