Are those members of our society who are the most fearful of crime also the most likely to become the victims of crime?
Fear of crime victimisation is generally influenced by a broad range of demographic, social, geographical and historical metrics. To find out whether those members of our society who are the most fearful of crime are also the most likely to become victims of crime, we need to investigate their perceptions of crime in relation to true crime statistics. Quite often among the public there is a misunderstanding or discrepancy between perceived risk of victimisation and actual risk of victimisation. Throughout this essay, we will explore empirical research, journal articles, and other academic sources, to determine who is most likely to be a victim of crime, who is most likely to be fearful of crime, and the discrepancy between the demographics who are most at risk of becoming a crime victim, and who are most fearful of becoming a crime victim. Overall this essay will prove that the members of our society who are most fearful of crime are not the ones most at risk.
Perception VS Risk
The public are mostly informed about crime via their consumption of news media. While first hand and second hand experience does impact the way in which people view crime, that majority of their perception of crime is derived from media (Dorfman, 2001). If people think that crime is far more prevalent than it is, it stands to reason they might be more afraid of becoming a victim. Roberts and Indermaur (2009), Hough and Roberts (2004), Rex & Tonry (2002) all showed that official crime statistics do not match up with the public perception of crime. While Indermaur and Weatherburn (2004) and Maguire and Pastore (1999) both show that large segments of the public believe incorrectly that crime is on the rise, even if the statistics show a downward trend in crime. Clearly there is miscommunication between crime reports being consumed by the public and true crime statistics, and this can lead to an unfounded fear of crime victimization.
Inequality of crime
Few things in our society are shared equally between both genders, and fear of crime is not always one of them. To understand who is most fearful of crime, we need to explore the factors which contribute to fears of crime. It’s almost universally accepted that women fear crime more than men, but while Reid & Konrad (2004) and Ferraro (1997) both argue that the difference in fear of crime victimization between women and men lies with the type of crime. Gordon, Riger, LeBailly, & Heath (1980) argue that fear of crime in women is irrational given the probability of their victimization. However a further study argues a different angle all together, that women are more afraid of becoming a victim of crime because they are more vulnerable (Rountree & Land, 1996). All of these studies agree that the levels of fear of crime victimization are different between men and women, with women being the most fearful. However, understanding that there is a discrepancy between genders in fear of crime victimization is just one piece of the puzzle.
Society and crime
There are more demographic factors that divide society, and we need to explore what area of society is most likely to become a victim of crime. Indermaur and Roberts (2005) found that the people most likely to hold misconstrued ideas of, and be more afraid of becoming a victim or crime include the poorly educated, elderly, and women. A further study concluded that the elderly, arguably one of the highest crime fearing demographics, had the lowest occurrences of victimization of any age group of the study (Whitaker, 1987). This evidence is backed up by another study from Cohen, Kluegel, and Land (1981) who also found that the most likely group to be victimized are young, single males even though those who are highly educated, younger, or male tend to have a more accurate understanding of the representation of crime in their area and therefore less fear of victimization.
Over perception of crime
By examining the evidence presented above together, we can see how true crime statistics do not match up with the public’s perception of crime, leading to higher levels of fear of victimization in some demographics i.e. the most vulnerable. We also see that the demographics in our society which are the most fearful of crime are the uneducated, elderly, and females but that the most likely victims of crime are young, single males. When examined all together, this essay shows that the members of our society who are the most fearful of crime are not the most likely to become the victims of crime.