Byline: By Paul Rowland Western Mail
Graffiti and dirty streets make people feel more frightened than actual cases of serious crime, a report claims today.
Spray-painted walls, piles of litter, abandoned cars and noisy neighbours have a greater impact on people's perceptions of how safe they are than the actual incidence of serious crimes like rape and murder, according to the report released by the Audit Commission.
A study carried out in council districts across Wales and England found that despite government statistics showing a reduction in crime over the past 11 years, the majority of people believed crime was rising, because official figures did not take into account 'low-level disorder and anti-social behaviour'.
These are 'the very things that people use to judge how safe they feel', according to the report.
Criminologist Maurice Vanstone of Swansea University said that perception of crime had a far bigger impact on fear levels than incidences of serious crime because of the greater number of people affected.
He said, 'This links in to previous research findings both in this country and in North America, which suggest that people's fear of crime is more closely associated with media representations of crime than actual crime rates.
'If you think of that in terms of what creates an impression of loss of safety, and anxiety about crime, then it fits with these findings.
'The aesthetic aspects of an environment create an impression on everybody who lives in that neighbourhood, while actual crime only truly has an impact on its direct victims.'
Zoe Billingham, director of community, safety and environment at the Audit Commission, said more than half of people considered low-level crime as their top …