THE FEAR OF CRIME: INTERPRETING THE ENVIRONMENT TO EVALUATE RISK
Jackson, J.P., London School of Economics and Political Science, England
This paper presents a study into the fear of crime, or more specifically public perceptions of and emotional responses to the risk of criminal victimisation. A new model of worry about crime was specified that built on the sociological work of Ferraro (1995). This theoretical framework specified that worry about the possibility of victimisation is shaped by the appraisal of threat of victimisation. Furthermore, these risk perceptions were hypothesised to be comprised of a set of inter-related perceptions: the likelihood of victimisation; perceived control over its occurrence; and judgements of the potential severity of consequences. The model also specified that such perceptions of risk were shaped by schemata that related social and physical aspects of one's neighbourhood to the specific threat of victimization and a more general sense of disorder. These aspects of the environment were: perceptions of the trustworthiness and predictability of behaviour of people in a given environment; social and physical incivilities (for example, graffiti and young people hanging around in the street); and perceptions of community cohesion, including levels of informal social control (the extent to which members of the community impose informal control on the behaviour of others through intervention or admonishment). To test this model, data were analysed from a postal survey of a pure random sample of residents in two small, socio- economically contrasting areas of London (n=479; 27% response rate). Structural equation modelling indicated that the theoretical model adequately fitted the data.