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Figgie Report on Fear of Crime - America Afraid, Part One - The General Public

NCJ Number
Date Published
168 pages
This report presents the results of a survey investigating the pervasiveness of fear of crime among the general public in the United States, the ways in which people cope with fear of crime, and public views on the police and the criminal justice system.
A sample of 1,047 was drawn from a random digit dial sample of all telephones in the continental United States. The initial sample was weighted for gender and income in order more closely to approximate the 1979 population. The study reveals that 4 out of 10 Americans are highly fearful that they will become victims of violent crime (murder, rape, robbery, assault); 4 of 10 also feel unsafe in their everyday environments due to fear of crime. Two indexes are used to measure concrete fear (fear of specific acts of violence) and formless fear (fear of non specific threats to safety in the community). These indexes show an alarming pervasiveness of fear of crime in America, crossing all demographic boundaries. Concrete fear particularly affects the young and those who have more formal education. Formless fear particularly affects those who are socially disadvantaged. Americans cope with fear by keeping the car or house doors locked, dressing plainly to avoid attracting attention, identifying people before letting them into their homes, and owning guns. People with high levels of concrete or formless fear are more likely to take protective measures than are those with low levels of either fear. Public attitudes toward the police are mostly positive. More than half of all Americans favor increased local taxes to provide police protection. Attitudes toward the criminal justice system are largely negative, however. Two-thirds favor the death penalty for convicted murderers. Half of the members of the public support the sterilization of habitual criminals and the insane. About 90 percent of the public favor long prison sentences for those convicted of violent crime. The survey questionnaire and a selected bibliography listing 28 references on the fear of crime are included.