The Impact of Perceived Offense Seriousness and Perceived Risk of Victimization on Fear of Gang Crime

Jodi Lane, University of Florida
James W. Meeker, University of California, Irvine

Fear of crime was a major factor for the public and for policymakers during the 1990s, especially fear prompted by gangs. This was true, even though relatively few people are victimized by gang crime. Fear of crime researchers have developed different ideas to explain differences in fear across people and across crimes. Warr and Stafford (1983) and Warr (1984, 1985, 2000) have argued that fear differences across crimes is a function of the perceived seriousness of the crime and the perceived risk of victimization by that crime. Using data from a 1997 random digit dial survey conducted in Orange County, California, we examine the impacts of perceived risk and perceived seriousness on fear of gang crime using latent variable structural equation models. We treat perceived seriousness, perceived risk, and fear as latent constructs, using individual variables as indicators of these constructs. We find that perceived seriousness and perceived risk both have direct effects on fear of crime and that they have indirect effects through each other.

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Updated 05/20/2006