In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Fear of Crime and Perceived Risk

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Theoretical Explanations and Perceived Risk
  • Measures of Fear
  • Women and Fear
  • Elderly and Fear
  • Neighborhoods, Incivility, and Fear
  • Students, Schools, and Fear
  • Consequences of Fear

Criminology Fear of Crime and Perceived Risk
Lynn A. Addington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0051


Fear of crime constitutes a topic of significant interest for criminologists and has generated an extensive body of research. This focus is likely due to the fact that many more people experience fear of crime than experience an actual criminal victimization. Defining “fear of crime” has generated some controversy and no single agreed-upon definition exists. Fear of crime has included “a variety of emotional states, attitudes, or perceptions” (Warr 2000, p. 453, see General Overviews). More contentious is equating fear of crime with perceived risk. The most recent treatment of fear of crime clearly distinguishes these two constructs and views perceived risk as preceding and causing fear. In an attempt to bring greater clarity to this area of study, a few researchers have advocated to use “fear of victimization” as a more precise term rather than “fear of crime” (Warr and Stafford 1983, see Theoretical Explanations and Perceived Risk). Most researchers and studies, however, use these terms interchangeably.

General Overviews

While a great deal has been written on fear of crime, few general texts on the topic are available. Ferraro 1995 provides a thorough review and critique of the fear-of-crime literature. This synthesis is used as a basis for developing and testing a risk interpretation model to explain fear of crime. This source could be used in an advanced undergraduate course on victimology or responses to crime. Vanderveen 2006 provides a comprehensive and thorough coverage of fear of crime, which includes an extensive review and critique of the literature from both U.S. and international sources. This volume is well suited for a graduate course. For advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and researchers new to the area, Warr 2000 offers a clear overview of the topic and summarizes the current controversies concerning fear of crime. Both Hale 1996 and DuBow, et al. 1979 offer literature reviews that are quite good at synthesizing and critiquing the state of the literature as well as identifying overarching themes. While DuBow, et al. 1979 is over thirty years old, the volume presents a thoughtful and thorough treatment of the issues concerning fear of crime.

  • DuBow, Fred, Edward McCabe, and Gail Kaplan. 1979. Reactions to crime: A critical review of the literature. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

    A thoughtful and thorough, if slightly dated, review and synthesis of the fear-of-crime literature as part of an examination of more general reactions and responses to crime.

  • Ferraro, Kenneth F. 1995. Fear of crime: Interpreting victimization risk. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

    Thorough discussion of fear of crime. Includes a critique of existing measures and debate over measuring fear of crime. Develops and tests Ferraro’s risk interpretation model, which posits that both ecological and individual factors shape a person’s perceived risk, which in turn causes fear.

  • Hale, Chris. 1996. Fear of crime: A review of the literature. International Review of Victimology 4:79–150.

    Comprehensive and extensive review of the literature. Identifies overarching themes in the literature including theoretical explanations, measures of fear, causes of fear, and strategies and programs to reduce fear.

  • Vanderveen, Gabry. 2006. Interpreting fear, crime, risk, and unsafety. Den Haag, The Netherlands: Boom Juridische Uitgevers.

    Comprehensive and thorough review of the current state of knowledge about fear of crime. Focuses on the measures of fear. Provides an interdisciplinary approach and proposes new strategies for researchers to gain improvements for a better understanding of crime.

  • Warr, Mark. 2000. Fear of crime in the United States: Avenues for research and policy. In Criminal justice 2000: Measurement and analysis of crime and justice. Vol. 4. Edited by David Duffee, 451–489. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

    An accessible overview of the fear-of-crime literature, including controversies over definition and measurement. Identifies questions about fear of crime that are currently unanswered by the literature.

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