Crime, Disorder and the Fear of Crime: Assessing the Impact of the Incivility Thesis Across Twelve U.S. Cities

Karen A. Snedker, New York University

Fear of crime is frequently cited as a menace to the quality of public life in the United Sates and has been used to justify changes in crime control policy. However, despite the extensive research on fear of crime, it is unclear how the causes and consequences of fear of crime vary by city. Do previous findings, particularly ecological factors, remain significant when examined across different cities? According to the social disorganization theoretical perspective, fear of crime would tend to be higher for residents in neighborhoods plagued with high levels of crime, neighborhood deterioration and disorganization. Physical and social disorder or incivilities are considered "signs of crime" indicating that the social control mechanisms within the neighborhood have broken down which elevates feelings of anxiety which lead to higher feelings of fear (Skogan 1990; Wilson and KIelling 1982). Relying on the Bureau of Justice Statistics "Fear of Crime and Community Policing Survey" this project will be able to assess the impact of the incivility hypothesis across twelve U.S. cities through quantitative analysis. In an attempt to provide a fuller understanding of fear of ctime for urban residents this research has important implications for the vitality, safety, and future of urban neighborhoods.

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Updated 05/20/2006