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DO NEIGHBORHOODS GENERATE FEAR OF CRIME? AN EMPIRICAL TEST USING THE BRITISH CRIME SURVEY

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For a long time, criminologists have contended that neighborhoods are important determinants of how individuals perceive their risk of criminal victimization. Yet, despite the theoretical importance and policy relevance of these claims, the empirical evidence base is surprisingly thin and inconsistent. Drawing on data from a national probability sample of individuals, linked to independent measures of neighborhood demographic characteristics, visual signs of physical disorder, and reported crime, we test four hypotheses about the mechanisms through which neighborhoods influence fear of crime. Our large sample size, analytical approach, and the independence of our empirical measures enable us to overcome some of the limitations that have hampered much previous research into this question. We find that neighborhood structural characteristics, visual signs of disorder, and recorded crime all have direct and independent effects on individual-level fear of crime. Additionally, we demonstrate that individual differences in fear of crime are strongly moderated by neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics; between-group differences in expressed fear of crime are both exacerbated and ameliorated by the characteristics of the areas in which people live.
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Keywords: criminal victimization; fear; multilevel; neighborhood effects

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of SociologyUniversity of Surrey 2: Division of Social StatisticsUniversity of Southampton

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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