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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The 12% was determined by funding limitations. Twelve percent was the maximum number of households that we could survey based on the funding available for expenses such as printing, postcards, postage, and returns.

  2. 2.

    As previously mentioned, satisfaction and confidence in police loaded in factor analyses as distinct components. However, the two measures were highly correlated and had issues with multicollinearity. Because of this, they were combined into one 12-item measure of resident views of police. However, we did run OLS models putting each, the satisfaction scale and the confidence scale, in the models separately, and both retained statistical significance in the main and supplementary analyses. Furthermore, the confidence in police items had stronger effects than satisfaction, consistent with the discussion.

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Funding

This study was funded entirely by DeSales University.

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Correspondence to Michelle A. Bolger.

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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.

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Bolger, M.A., Bolger, P.C. Predicting Fear of Crime: Results from a Community Survey of a Small City. Am J Crim Just 44, 334–351 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-018-9450-x

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Keywords

  • Fear of crime
  • Neighborhood disorder
  • Vulnerability model
  • Perceived crime problems