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Fear of Crime and Feelings of Control - Reactions to Crime in an Urban Community

NCJ Number
E S Cohn
Date Published
134 pages
Two studies of 81 working class people in Philadelphia tested hypotheses concerning the relationship between fear of crime, feeling of control, and reactions to crime.
Reactions to solutions to crime were divided into crime prevention and victimization prevention. The first study used personal interviews to determine the relationships. Participants were divided according to whether they belonged to a community organization engaged in crime prevention and/or engaged in avoidance behaviors. Participants reported their fear of crime and feelings of control, rating how important both causes and solutions to the crime problem were, as well as rating how easy solutions were to accomplish. In this study, fear of crime was correlated with feelings of helplessness, as expected. People who belonged to the community organization reported less fear of crime and more control over crime than those who did not belong. People who engaged in many avoidance behaviors reported more fear of crime and less control than those who engaged in few such behaviors. Respondents rated both causes and solutions of crime related to crime prevention as more important than causes and solutions related to victimization prevention, although the latter solution was reported easier to accomplish. Older respondents reported feeling less control over crime than younger respondents and were more likely to engage in victimization prevention than crime prevention. The second study contained an experiment testing reactions of 69 of the original participants to 8 examples of crime victimization threats. As in the interview study, fear of crime was correlated with feelings of helplessness over crime. Implications of the study focus on efforts to prevent crime as a means of reducing fear of crime. Fourteen tables and four reference notes are included. The questionnaire and approximately 75 references are appended. (Author abstract modified)