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Effects of Neighborhood Conditions on Perceptions of Safety

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2002 Pages: 417-427
D. Mark Austin; L. Allen Furr; Michael Spine
Date Published
September 2002
11 pages
This article examines the relationship between neighborhood conditions and residents’ perceptions of safety.
Three demographic variables -- sex, age, and socioeconomic status -- have been shown to influence attitudes on crime and safety. In addition to these, criminal victimization could affect individuals’ attitudes on fear of crime and perception of safety. Social and physical conditions of neighborhood and urban settings have been linked to both emotional and behavioral outcomes of neighborhood residents. Social dynamics in neighborhoods appear to affect residents’ perception of the conditions of their neighborhood and their attitudes about crime. Neighborhood “incivilities” (such as deteriorating buildings, trash, and the presence of unsupervised youth) also affect residents’ perception of safety. The hypothesis that housing and neighborhood quality would have a positive and direct impact on perceptions of safety was examined. A Likert scale was constructed using four items with response categories ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Eight independent and/or intervening variables were used in the research models. The first four were income, sex, age, and homeownership. Focusing on issues such as litter, appearance, noise, and trust, the measurement of satisfaction with the neighborhood centered on residents’ perceptions of incivilities in their neighborhoods. The results showed support for the hypothesis that housing quality had a positive effect on satisfaction with the local physical environment, which had an impact on perceptions of safety. Housing quality also had a direct impact on perceptions of safety. Victimization did not share a significant relationship with satisfaction with people in the local environment except in a bivariate relationship. Victimization did have a direct impact on perceptions of safety. The study confirmed past research indicating that deteriorating neighborhood conditions had a negative influence on perceptions of safety. Urban policymakers should increase their efforts to maintain and rehabilitate neighborhoods. 1 figure, 5 tables, 49 references


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