The fear of crime : an analysis and development of theory and method
This thesis considers research into the 'fear of crime'. It examines common
methodological, conceptual and theoretical problems and addresses a number of these
concerns. The first of two parts provides a history of the debate surrounding 'fear of
crime' that has taken place in academic and policy arenas during the past 20 years. This
was informed by in-depth interviews with twenty-eight academic and Home Office
criminologists who have researched and written on the subject. Combined with a review
of the literature, this afforded a detailed examination of weaknesses in frameworks of
many quantitative studies. This articulated the research problems for the second part of
the thesis: the common failure to (1) theoretically define the construct 'fear of crime'
and empirically validate measurement tools; and (2) apply and test a coherent model of
the phenomenon andits shaping factors.
The second part of the thesis also had two stages. First, twenty-four in-depth interviews
were conducted with a convenience sample of residents in two contrasting areas of
London. Cognitive question testing procedures were used to examine standard survey
questions. This fed into the development of new measures which were fielded in a
postal survey of a pure random sample of residents from the same two areas (a
response rate of 27% yielded a sample of 479). These data were analysed and the
measures were found to have adequate scaling properties.
Second, structural equation modelling of the data allowed the successful assessment of
a new psychological model of fear of crime. This built on Ferraro (1995): the one
(sociological) study that has avoided many of the theoretical and methodological
limitations of other studies. The theoretical framework specified that the frequency of
worry about the possibility of victimisation was shaped by the appraisal of threat, which
in turn was predicted by perceptions of aspects of the environment hypothesised to
symbolise the threat of victimisation.