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Do Neighborhoods Generate Fear of Crime?: An Empirical Test Using the British Crime Survey

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2011 Pages: 331-370
Date Published
May 2011
40 pages

Drawing on data from a national probability sample of individuals, linked to independent measures of neighborhood demographic characteristics, visual signs of physical disorder, and reported crime, this study tested four hypotheses about the mechanisms through which neighborhoods influence fear of crime.


For a long time, criminologists have contended that neighborhoods are important determinants of how individuals perceive their risk of criminal victimization. Yet, despite the theoretical importance and policy relevance of these claims, the empirical evidence base is surprisingly thin and inconsistent. The current study's large sample size, analytical approach, and the independence of the empirical measures enabled researchers to overcome some of the limitations that have hampered much previous research into this question. The study found that neighborhood structural characteristics, visual signs of disorder, and recorded crime all have direct and independent effects on individual-level fear of crime. Additionally, the study demonstrates that individual differences in fear of crime are strongly moderated by neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics; between-group differences in expressed fear of crime are both exacerbated and ameliorated by the characteristics of the areas in which people live. (Published Abstract)

Date Published: May 1, 2011