Crime Prevention and Community Safety

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 46–60 | Cite as

The relationship between media portrayals and crime: perceptions of fear of crime among citizens

  • Meghan E. HollisEmail author
  • Sharece Downey
  • Alex del Carmen
  • Rhonda R Dobbs
Original Article


Fear of crime has been an area of increasing concern in criminological research in recent years. This is a study of (1) the relationship between media portrayals of crime and the prevalence of fear of crime, and (2) the key demographic correlates of fear of crime in the study community. The study resulted in three key findings. Results indicate several weak but positive relationships between media influence and fear of crime. Theoretical, research, and policy implications are discussed.


Fear of crime Criminology Crime Communities and crime Media and crime Social media 


  1. Ascenio, E., M. Merrill, and M. Steiner. 2014. Self-esteem, the fear of crime, and the decision to protect oneself from victimization. Eastern Sociological Society 29 (3): 587–606.Google Scholar
  2. Banks, M. 2005. Spaces of insecurity: Media and fear of crime in a local context. Crime Media Culture 1 (2): 169–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brunt, P., R.I. Mawby, and Z. Hambly. 2000. Tourist victimisation and the fear of crime on holiday. Tourism Management 21 (4): 417–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bursik, R.J., and H.G. Grasmick. 1993. Neighborhoods and Crime: The Dimensions of Effective Community Control. New York, NY: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  5. Callanan, V. 2016. Media consumption, perceptions of crime risk, and fear of crime: Examining race/ethnic differences. Sociological Perspectives 55 (1): 93–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dobbs, R.R., C.A. Waid, and T. Shelley. 2009. Explaining fear of crime as fear of rape among college females: An examination of multiple campuses in the United States. International Journal of Social Inquiry 2 (2): 105–122.Google Scholar
  7. Dowler, K. 2003. Media consumption and public attitudes toward crime and justice: The relationship between fear of crime, punitive attitudes, and perceived police effectiveness. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 10 (2): 109–126.Google Scholar
  8. Ferraro, K.F. 1994. Fear of Crime: Interpreting Victimization Risk. Albany, NY: SUNY PRESS.Google Scholar
  9. Fetchenhauer, D., and B.P. Buunk. 2005. How to explain gender difference in fear of crime: Towards and evolutionary approach. Sexualities, Evolution, & Gender 7: 95–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fisher, B., and J. Nasar. 1992. Fear of crime in relation to three exterior site features: Prospect, refuge, and escape. Environment and Behavior 24: 34–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fisher, B., and J. Nasar. 1995. Fear spots in relation to microlevel physical cues: Exploring the overlooked. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 32: 214–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heath, L. 1984. Impact of newspaper crime reports on fear of crime: Multimethodological investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 47 (2): 263–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heath, L., and K. Gilbert. 1996. Mass media and fear of crime. American Behavioral Scientist 39 (4): 379–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kaplan, S., and R. Kaplan. 1982. Cognition and Environment: Functioning in an Uncertain World. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  15. Kohm, S., C. Waid-Lindberg, M. Weinrath, T. Shelley, and R. Dobbs. 2012. The impact on fear of crime among university students: A cross-national comparison. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 54 (1): 67–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kurtz, E., B. Koons, and R.B. Taylor. 1998. Land use, physical deterioration, resident-based control and calls for service on urban streetblocks. Justice Quarterly 15: 121–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. LaGrange, R.L., and K.F. Ferraro. 1989. Assessing age and gender differences in perceived risk and fear of crime. Criminology 27: 697–719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lane, J., and J.W. Meeker. 2003. Ethnicity, information sources, and fear of crime. Deviant Behavior 24 (1): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Liska, A., and E. Baccaglini. 1990. Feeling safe by comparison: Crime in the newspapers. Social Problems 37: 360–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mawby, R.I. 1996. Comparative research of police practices in England, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. In M. Pagon, (Ed.) Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West. Ljubljana, Slovenia: College of Police and Security Studies. Retrieved December 15, 2016 from
  21. Mawby, R.I., P. Brunt, and Z. Hambly. 2000. Fear of crime among British holiday makers. British Journal of Criminology 40 (3): 468–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mawby, R.I., Z. Ostrihanska, and D. Wojcik. 1997. Police response to crime: The perceptions of victims from two Polish cities. Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy 7 (4): 235–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nasar, J.L., and B. Fisher. 1994. Hot spots of fear and crime: A multi-method investigation. Journal of Environmental Psychology 13: 187–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nasar, J.L., B. Fisher, and M. Grannis. 1993. Proximate physical cues to fear of crime. Landscape and Urban Planning 26: 161–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Perkins, D., and R. Taylor. 1996. Ecological assessments of community disorder: Their relationship to fear of crime and theoretical implications. American Journal of Community Psychology 24 (1): 63–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Riggs, S., and C. Cook. 2015. The shadow of physical harm? Examining the unique and gendered relationship between fear of murder versus fear of sexual assault on fear of violent crime. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 30 (14): 2383–2409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Robinson, J.B., B.A. Lawton, R.B. Taylor, and D.D. Perkins. 2003. Multilevel longitudinal impacts of incivilities: Fear of crime, expected safety, and block satisfaction. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 19 (3): 237–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rollwagen, H. 2016. The relationship between dwelling type and fear of crime. Environment and Behavior 48 (2): 365–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Romer, D., K.H. Jamieson, and S. Aday. 2003. Television news and the cultivation of fear of crime. Journal of Communications 53 (1): 88–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sampson, R.J., S.W. Raudenbush, and F. Earls. 1997. Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277 (5328): 918–924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smolej, M., and J. Kiviviuori. 2006. The relation between crime news and fear of violence. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention 7: 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Taylor, R.B. 1988. Human Territorial Functioning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Taylor, R.B. 2001. Breaking Away from Broken Windows: Evidence from Baltimore Neighborhoods and the Nationwide Fight Against Crime, Grime, Fear, and Decline. New York: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  34. Taylor, R.B., and J. Covington. 1993. Community structural change and fear of crime. Social Problem 40 (3): 374–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Taylor, R.B., S. Gottfredson, and S. Brower. 1984. Block crime and fear: Defensible space, local social ties, and territorial functioning. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 21 (4): 303–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Taylor, R.B., B. Koons, E. Kurtz, J. Greene, and D. Perkins. 1995. Streetblocks with more nonresidential landuse have more physical deterioration: Evidence from Baltimore and Philadelphia. Urban Affairs Review 30: 120–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. U.S. Census. 2010. American Fact Finder. Retrieved December 1, 2016 from
  38. van Dijk, J.J.M., and P. Mayhew. 1993. Criminal Victimisation in the Industrialised World: Key Findings of the 1989 and 1992 International Crime Surveys. Directorate for Crime Prevention, Ministry of Justice, The Netherlands. Retrieved December 15, 2016 from
  39. Wakshlag, J.J. 1983. Viewer apprehension about victimization and crime drama programs. Communication Research 10 (2): 195–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wang, K., and R.B. Taylor. 2006. Simulated walks through dangerous alleys: Impacts of features with progress on fear. Journal of Environmental Psychology 26: 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Weitzer, R., and C.E. Kubrin. 2004. Breaking news: How local TV news and real-world conditions affect fear of crime. Justice Quarterly 21 (3): 497–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meghan E. Hollis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sharece Downey
    • 2
  • Alex del Carmen
    • 1
  • Rhonda R Dobbs
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Predictive and Analytic Police Science, School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Strategic StudiesTarleton State UniversityFort WorthUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Strategic StudiesTarleton State UniversityStephenvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Criminal JusticeTarleton State UniversityFort WorthUSA

Personalised recommendations