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Fear of Victimization and Sensitivity to Risk

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1987) Pages: 29-46
M Warr
Date Published
18 pages
Using data from a 1981 mail survey of 500 randomly selected Seattle residents, this study found that sensitivity to the risk of crime victimization varied systematically across offenses in proportion to their perceived seriousness.
Building on the author's earlier work (Warr, 1984, 1985), this study hypothesizes that differential sensitivity to risk can explain not only differences in fear among population subgroups but also variation in the degree to which different crimes are feared. In applying this hypothesis to the survey, respondents' fear of victimization for 16 offenses was measured, as were the perceived risk of victimization and the perceived seriousness of the 16 offenses. The sensitivity parameters (threshold, slope, and maximum fear) for each offense were obtained through an analysis of covariance. Findings confirmed the sensitivity model of fear, which states that the perceived seriousness of an offense affects fear by altering the functional relation between fear and perceived risk. Sensitivity to risk in turn affects fear by determining the 'output' of fear produced by a given 'input' of perceived risk. Based on these findings, some general principles about fear are stated. 2 figures, 2 tables, and 12 references.


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