The Application of GIS Technology to the Study of Fear of Crime

Nick McRee, The University of Portland

Fear of crime among neighborhood residents has attracted much attention among criminologists, policymakers, and the public. However, surprisingly little is known about how particular characteristics of residential areas condition feelings of fear or safety. In many samples, respondents do not identify the distinctive elements of their neighborhood that may provoke fear, but rather indicate whether they are afraid to walk in "some area" of their neighborhood. This research applies the strategies and technologies associated with modern spatial data analysis, currently used with some success to investigate criminal activity, to a study of fear of crime. A sample of residents in an urban neighborhood completed a short questionnaire that includes demographic and personal information, prior victimization experiences, residential history, and general perceptions about crime. Participants also toured their neighborhood by foot, periodically stopping to assess neighborhood characteristics and their perceived risk of victimization. A handheld GPS receiver recorded the path followed by each respondent, and the locations at which assessments were made. The presentation considers the geographical distribution of variables that contribute to perceptions of safety and crime victimization risk.

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Updated 05/20/2006