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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 192347 Find in a Library
Title: Perceived Vulnerability and Fear of Crime: Why Fear Stays High When Crime Rates Drop
Journal: Journal of Offender Rehabilitation  Volume:33  Issue:2  Dated:2001  Pages:1-14
Author(s): Linda Heath; Jack Kavanagh; S. Rae Thompson
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 14
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study focused on declining crime rates and the stubbornly high levels of fear of crime.
Abstract: More violent crimes are likely to be considered newsworthy by the media. The public, with a steady diet of media relayed experiences, is using events that are almost by definition exceptional to form their opinions about danger on the streets. A necessary ingredient for fear of crime is perceived vulnerability. Random acts of senseless violence have made the public feel vulnerable. The hypothesis of this study is that perceptions of more gang and drug involvement in gun deaths will lead to higher perceptions of personal vulnerability to random acts of violence, which will lead to greater personal fear of crime. The data came from 143 participants’ responses to a telephone survey. The standardized interview schedule included questions about basic demographics, fear of crime, television viewing and newspaper reading, perceptions of gun victim characteristics, and perceived risk of being shot by a criminal. Results show that there were only three variables that contributed significant relationships to fear of crime: (1) income (with people who report lower incomes reporting higher fear of crime); (2) gender (with women reporting higher levels of fear of crime); and (3) perceived personal risk (with higher risk relating to higher fear). The heart of the model shows that people’s perceptions of who the gun victims are is significantly related to their own perceived risk of being shot by a criminal and this perceived risk significantly predicts fear of crime levels. Fear of crime continues to be a paradox, with people exhibiting great fear of statistically rare events (being caught in gang crossfire) and much less fear of much more likely events (being killed by an abusive partner). 1 figure, 1 table, 32 references
Main Term(s): Crime Rate; Fear of crime
Index Term(s): Crime Statistics; Estimated crime incidence; Media coverage; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public Opinion of Crime; Reactions to crime; Television programming
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