Fear of Crime
Instructions: The last sentence means the topic “fear of crime” has to tie into something rather than just informations about fear of crime. In this case, it will be fear of crime relating to socio-economic status and the criminal justice system and how individuals are a victimized by these factors.
The Fear of Crime
The fear of crime is a developing concern to the Canadian public. It adversely affects the economic and social well-being of individuals while detracting from the quality of life. While it is well-founded in some people, it is at less personal risk than they tend to believe. Even though government cannot eliminate such fears, they can contribute towards its reduction. Therefore, this paper looks at the fear of crime, own it affects the social and economic conditions of the society, victimization caused by such fears and steps that can be taken to reduce such fears.
What is Fear of Crime?
Statements made concerning the fear of crime often fail to differentiate between the fear of personal victimization, the perception of general risks, and anxiety about crime in general and the view of crime as a public policy issue (Ceccato, 2012). Hence, the fear of crime is complicated in that some people may fear one kind of crime but no other types of offenses. Further, some people may be fearful of some crimes at home but not in the public. Therefore, generalizing the fear of crime or comparing such crimes across jurisdictions or over time may fail to consider these differences.
A number of dynamics influence the fear of crime witnessed in societies. These include;
Generally, women tend to be more fearful of crime than males. They are more fearful of remaining alone at home or walking alone at night as compared to their male counterparts. Research confirms that women reported a greater fear of crime than males regardless of how such crime was measured. While females report greater fear levels, the males stand a greater chance of victimization. This is explained by the fact that most of the offenses committed against women such as family violence or sexual assault likely induced fear and were likely perpetrated by men. Further, the sex roles in most societies were learned in a way that imparted less self-confidence to women and less self-autonomy when compared to males (Rader & Haynes, 2011).
The experience of females to various forms of harassment contribute to their fear of crime. The greater fear of crime exhibited by women is reflected on their perceived risk of abuse from family members, spouses or other strangers. In western societies, the fear of crime is associated with one having received obscene, threatening, or harassing telephone calls.
It is generally assumed the decline in physical resilience associated with advancement in age causes one to become more fearful of crime (Gray, Jackson, & Farrall, 2008). Older folks are significantly more fearful of crimes against them in their homes than younger people are. However, such fear in relation to age is more complex. For instance, in Canada, the younger people are more fearful of violence than the older generation due to the nature of their lifestyle.
Generally, the section of the population with higher levels of income and education tend to be less fearful when compared to their poor counterparts. The wealthy are able to afford good security and are less likely to interact with those from disadvantaged backgrounds who tend to be at greater risk of offending (Doran & Burgess, 2012).
Past experiences as a victim of crime, directly or through friends, relatives, or family creates a great link to the fear of crime. Studies in Canada in 1989 by the Internal Crime Victims Survey found out that victims of crime tended to avoid some places after nightfall when compared to non-victims (Gomme,2002). In the surveys, they tended to express a great feeling of unsafeness.
Not all crimes have the same impact on their victims. Assault victims are no more fearful of being alone in the house as compared to non-victims. However, persons who were once victims of mugging, car theft, burglary, and obscene telephone calls expressed greater fear as compared to non-victims (Hanslmaier, 2013).
Research shows that the public tends to take notice of crime news, and there’s an abundant supply of such news (Callanan, 2012). Frequent exposure to such news leads to the overestimation of the probability of such victimization especially since the probability of being a victim is unequally distributed throughout the society.
The research has concluded that newspaper coverage has a sophisticated effect. The form of media increases the fear in some areas while decreasing the fear of crime in other instances. The way in which newspapers cover crime affects the official crime rates. Sensational coverage of crime led to higher levels of fear as compared to readers who accessed newspapers with less predominant and dramatic coverage.
Social and physical aspects of one’s neighborhood tend to contribute to their fear of crime. The lack of cohesion in neighborhoods as exhibited by the feeling that neighbors do not help each other is associated with the fear of crime. The fear is reduced by the presence of sociable neighborhoods. City dwellers reported a greater fear of crime when compared to those living outside metropolitan areas.
Other factors associated with the fear of crime are ‘incivilities’. These are in the form of vandalism, graffiti, litter or other aspects of the environment that reflect a state of desperation. These factors may also include the constant presence of vagrants, drunkards, or unruly groups of young males (Lorenc et al., 2012). These factors, either individually but especially collectively suggest that the location is totally out of control hence unsafe. These messages induce the fear of crime and acts as an invitation to crime on some locations. Fear is also related to some physical locations. Aras that appear to harbor perpetrators with little escape for the victims elicit the general fear of crime.
Neighborhoods undergoing some form of change bring cause fear of crime. Communities that have a fast-changing populations and economic activities have a heightened fear of crime even in situations where such crimes do not exist. Hence, the sense of security that accompanies a stable social setting is jolted by such changes. In some neighborhoods, confidence in the police also determines whether residents feel safe or not (Ceccato, 2012).
Solutions to Fear of Crime
There is no single solution to fear reduction or crime prevention. Some crime preventing and fighting methods may only serve to further the crime hence creating more fear.
Reducing Disorder and Incivility
Incivility may be subjective to some extent. However, the perception of crime and disorder is associated with the concentration of unruly youth in a single neighborhood. Also, despite the freedom of movement I most societies, the extreme exercise of such may further the fear of crime since every citizen has the right to feel safe within their private confines and their residential areas.
The policy options are available for controlling incivility range from draconian measures to benign and creative methods. Repressive societies may opt for methods such as quarantine areas, curfews, or corporal punishments. However, approaches that are more moderate may achieve a greater fear reduction in a less coercive fashion. An example includes the designation of some areas as alcohol-free zones. In these areas, drinkers are less likely to congregate thereby limiting the fear caused by the unruliness of drunkards. Consequently, such areas will attract families and those who are averse to excessive forms of expressions (Hanslmaier, 2013).
Similarly, some areas can be designated in ways that discourage unruly behavior. For instance, youths are less likely to gather in areas that play classical music. Zoning and planning restrictions also help to control behaviors and manifestations of disorder. Places or enterprises that conduct activities such as sex industry which are likely to attract incivility are excluded from public areas that are suitable for family entertainment.
In some countries, an action such as breaches of public decorum attracts criminal sanctions. Vagrancy, prostitution, public drunkenness, offensive language, and other misdemeanors attract arrests. The response to unruly gatherings includes vesting the police with powers to disperse crowds and prohibition of public loitering. However, due to cost factors, some countries designate functions such as incivility as a matter better dealt with by the welfare or health authorities and public drunkenness as a matter that was no longer appropriate for the judicial system (Weinrath, Michael, Young and Kohm, 2012).
Even though the use of the judicial system to control incivility has fallen out of favor, there is a section of the population that believes the use of the police to control drunks, vagrants and rowdy youth can work to boost a sense of security. However, apart from potential complaints from those at the receiving end of police directions, civil societies are likely to reject such a move since they are often applied against the minority groups in the society (Fong and Shi uya, 2002).. Hence, such coercive measures work best when applied to an extreme situation that comprises a gathering involving a wide-cross section of the community.
Nonetheless, such prohibitory measures may only serve to transfer incivility from one location to the next. Therefore, a more positive approach would involve creating recreational areas where youths can dispense some of their youthful energy (Collins, Damian and Blomley, 2003). Hence, identifiable locations can be designed expressly for that purpose. In other condition where the group in question includes the homeless, the mentally ill or drug users, appropriate housing, health, or support facilities must be made available.
Indications of disorder such as graffiti, vandalism, or general ambiance are amenable through the appropriate public policy intervention. The sooner such nuisance is rectified, the better for the society. Vandalism attracts more vandalism, and so does graffiti. An immediate rectification helps alleviate the fear of crime. Other modes of correction include the use of damage-resistant materials. Further, locations can be designed for creative arts where street art can be done in a more constructive manner.
The conventional approach to handling fear of crime is increasing police presence. This method is very costly and assumes that the fear of crime is evenly distributed across the population. Also, even though the presence of extra police may increase the confidence towards the police, it is not a guarantee of reduced fear of crime. Hence, this calls for two alternative approaches. The first involves targeting police to areas characterized by crime or fear. The second involves leveraging the community to compliment the traditional presence of law enforcers (Foster, Knuiman, Wood, & Giles-Corti, 2013).
Strategies employed by the police to reduce the fear of crime include increasing foot patrols which reduce citizen’s fears. Also, the police may produce newsletters containing details informing citizens of crime within the area, appropriate contact information and the police contact centers. Such strategies bring citizens and the police together hence reducing crime rates. However, these strategies only serve to bring the police closer to citizens but is not always successful.
Co-production of Safety
A fear reduction strategy involves augmenting police resources with those of the surrounding community (Brunton-Smith & Sturgis, 2011). Hence, organizing neighborhood residents into programs such as Neighborhood Watch in Australia reassures individuals fearful of crime and increases cohesiveness within the neighborhood. However, such methods requires communities that have already achieved cohesion and may not work in areas characterized by high mobility rates or anonymity.
Other strategies include enlisting citizens to help in crime prevention. For instance, the Netherlands has successfully recruited citizens to provide surveillance in residential areas and public transport. Safety wardens, recruited mostly from the unemployed youths, act as information, safety and control officers on public transport systems (Gray et al., 2008). Preliminary evaluations showed no reduction in the fear of crime but revealed a decrease in incidents of fare evasion.
One of the greatest aspects of crime reduction is the presence of lighting in public places. Even though increased lighting reduced the fear of crime, an investigation of four European countries revealed that the level of interactions within the buildings and the way they were managed determined criminal and disorder problems. The biggest factor for crime reduction was the presence of physical human authority. Also, the presence of closed circuit television systems and access to phones played a big part in fear alleviation. Moreover, psychological cues such as the presence of fresh flowers gave the impression of regular maintenance (Hedayati Marzbali, Abdullah, Razak, & Maghsoodi Tilaki, 2012).
Crime reduction is a challenge faced by
most countries. Even though governments cannot eliminate crime, they can
contribute to its reduction. The nature of crime prevention is too complicated
for a single agency to fight. Examples of policy initiatives proposed above are promising police activities. Others are
community welfare agencies, telecommunication agencies
and the local government. Hence, an effective implementation of crime reducing strategies
involves the effective collaboration of
the various institutions.
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