Academic journal article Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences

Factor Prediction of Fear of Crime: The Role of Depression, Anxiety and Media

Academic journal article Journal of Social and Psychological Sciences

Factor Prediction of Fear of Crime: The Role of Depression, Anxiety and Media

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Fear of crime has become paradigmatic for much research and scholarship, despite the decrease of crime rates. This might be due to the fact that more people experience fear of crime than experience an actual victimisation of crime. Although some results from recent studies are somewhat inconsistent and contradictory, there is a general assumption that fear of crime continues to impact individuals in many aspects of their daily life. Fear has been defined as an emotional reaction characterised by an eminent sense of anxiety and danger (Garofalo, 1981). Defining fear of crime (FoC) has generated much debate as there are no single agreed-upon or universal definitions for it (Addington, 2009). Nonetheless, one of the most prominent definitions holds that FoC is the individual's fear of becoming a victim of crime (Hale, 1996; Reiner, 1997; Addington, 2009). Despite a reduction in crime rates, FoC has become a prominent topic for much research (Muncie, 2001; Walklate & Mythen, 2008; Toch& Maguire, 2014). Evidently, there is a common tendency to equate FoC with actually being a victim of crime, as often reported by crime statistics. In this respect, current literature clearly distinguishes between FoC and the probability of becoming a victim of crime (Chadee, Austen &Ditton, 2007).

Early studies have also placed emphasis on the importance of establishing a distinction between outright fear and FoC, as the former concept would entail a disproportionate risk, which could be classified as irrational (Ferraro, 1996). Irrespective of recorded crime rates, some have argued that the prevalent perception is that crime is on the increase (Stafford, Chandola& Marmot, 2007; Toch& Maguire, 2014). This is clearly an indicative of substantial increases in FoC. It follows that, among public reactions to crime, one that interests criminologists the most is the fear of victimisation (Garofalo, 1981). In this respect, it could be argued that when compared with the actual risk of victimisation, FoC can be disproportionately high or low (Muncie, 2001). However, it is thought that fear of victimisation in its most common form consists of high fear for the likelihood of becoming a victim (Toch& Maguire, 2014). Although this is a quite subtle and somewhat intangible reaction to crime, it provides useful insights into the effects of FoC.

Due to disagreement over how it should be measured, FoC has generated much debate and controversy. As means of solving this debate, scholars have made two important distinctions; (a) feelings of unsafety and (b) fear of specific crimes (Rountree, 1998). Whilst earlier studies (see Baumer, 1985; Taylor & Covington, 1993) measured FoC based on feelings of unsafety, such as being afraid of walking alone at night, others advocated a more multidimensional view of FoC which incorporate risk perception of respondents (normally operationalized as feelings of unsafety), as well as an emotional component linked to fear of different types of crime (Visser, Scholte and Scheepers, 2013). This is thought to be an important conceptual distinction given that it divides FoC into the two aforementioned components, as well as taking into account that fear of crime in fact multidimensional. Furthermore, it is thought that feelings of unsafety may precede the FoC (LaGrange et al, 1992; Ferraro, 1995). Nonetheless, one could speculate that the causal order between fear of specific crimes and feelings of unsafety could be reversed as demonstrated by Rader (2004). Thus, it would be sensible to measure FoC and feelings of safety as separate outcomes. It follows that, FoC has been studied through the adoption of a wide range of methodologies (Box, Hale & Andrews, 1988; Stafford, Berk & Jackson, 2007). As a result, a number of variables thought to impact individuals' FoC have been isolated. These include geographic location, socio-economic status, gender, age, ethnicity, and media (Walklate & Mythen, 2008). …

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