Past Experiences with Crime

Many studies have examined whether or not past experiences with crime and criminals have any effect on the level of fear that a person holds, but findings have not been unanimous. Some studies have found no real differences between victims and non-victims, but other studies have documented a difference. In studying the effects of crime on college students, Dull and Wint (1997) found that those students who had been victims of crime had less fear of personal crime, but more fear of property crime, than those not victimized. The Angus Reid Report (1997) found that while 19% of non-victims express a great or fair amount of fear of being a victim of crime, 30% of victims express this fear (p. 54).

Certain crimes generate more fear for victims than others. Being a victim of a robbery, for example, generates a high level of fear because it contains elements that cause a greater amount of fear to be instilled in its victims. Robbery usually involves a stranger, weapons, physical assaults and the loss of a fair amount of money (Skogan & Klecka, 1997). Burglary, because of its invasion of privacy and substantial amount of loss, generates a high level of fear. The victims who express the most fear of walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark are victims of sexual assault, followed by victims of robbery, break and enter, assault, vandalism, motor vehicle theft, household theft and personal theft (CCJS, March 1995). Victimization can have differing impacts on fear, depending on the type of crime.


Fear of crime also varies according to where one lives. People who live in cities tend to hold higher levels of fear because cities and other urban areas tend to have higher crime rates than rural areas. In 1993, in relation to household victimizations alone, the rates were 222 per 1,000 urban households and 133 per 1,000 rural households (CCJS, 1996, p. 175). Furthermore, twice as many people (60% versus 30%) in large cities as compared to small towns fear walking alone at night (Horton, 1988, p. 26).

Ethnicity and Culture

Studies have found that fear levels vary according to ethnic background. While white respondents tend to show the least amount of fear, the question of who has the most fear has not been unanimously agreed upon. A 1994 British Crime Survey found that in relation to crimes of harassment, burglary, rape and mugging, the 'Asian' group expressed the most fear. The 'Black' group showed the next highest fear level in relation to these crimes, while the 'White' group showed the least amount of fear. This survey also found that for the crime of theft from car, the 'Black' group showed a slightly higher level of fear than the 'Asian' group, and the 'White' group once again had the lowest level of fear. In relation to simply feeling unsafe, the 'Asian' group was the highest, and the 'White' group had only a slightly higher level of fear than the 'Black' group (Hough, 1995).

Walker (1994) also found that Asian groups had the most fear, followed by black groups, and then white groups. Other studies have found that Black respondents were the most fearful (Evans, 1995; Silverman & Kennedy, 1983). Although studies do not agree upon which group has the greatest amount of fear, it is generally agreed upon that the 'White' group has the least amount of fear in relation to almost every crime.