Neighbourhood Disorder: Influence on Fear of CrimeNeighbourhood Disorder: Influence on Fear of Crime
Is Your Neighbourhood Afraid of Crime?
Various factors influence people’s fear of crime in their neighbourhood. This article investigates the role of disorder in this respect. In three experimental studies, participants making judgements about a neighbourhood’s social environment in vignettes describing disordered or ordered neighbourhoods rated residents’ social capital lower and reported feeling less safe, regardless of whether there was reference to police presence or not.
Fear of crime is a common problem in many neighbourhoods. Previous research tends to focus on the role of personal victimization or neighborhood characteristics in influencing fear levels, but there is also evidence that the combination of both individual and neighborhood characteristics is important in explaining fear.
Los Angeles band The Neighbourhood has been gaining a lot of traction with their hit single, Sweater Weather. Now they have released the video for their new song, Afraid, which has been well received by both critics and fans. The music video combines conventions from indie rock and alternative R&B to create a unique and thought provoking piece. This is known as genre hybridisation. The video features a low budget setting, which is typical of indie music videos but is filmed in black and white conforming to R&B genre.
Many studies have verified the correlation between disorder and fear of crime. When comparing disorder at the neighborhood and city levels, social disorder (CSD) has a greater effect on fear of crime than physical disorder (CPD). This is because people are less sensitive to physical disorder that does not occur near their area of residence.
Sampson and Raudenbush use systematic social observations to measure the level of disorder in neighborhoods. They also show that the various characteristics of disorder have a multilayered effect on individuals’ perceptions and interpretations of their surrounding environment.
The broken windows theory proposes that if there is a lot of visible disorder, such as litter, noise, and juvenile delinquency, residents will perceive their neighbourhood as being in decline, leading them to avoid the area and decreasing their quality of life. In addition, they will be aware that their surroundings are dangerous, which may lead to increased fear of crime. Therefore, implementing a crime prevention policy is important.
Social capital is a broad concept encompassing micro-level interactions such as neighbourly trust and meso-level relationships such as membership in community organisations and broader community engagement. It also includes cultural capital such as language and the ability to embody a community’s attributes through participation in events or cultural institutions.
A number of studies have examined the role of neighbourhood social capital in determining fear of crime. These studies build on the vulnerability and disorder models by including the addition of a social integration measure. The studies include a range of different measures of social capital and collective efficacy, the most important explanatory factor for fear of crime in this context.
Researchers such as Putnam have highlighted the decline of neighbourhood social bonds, which he believes is damaging to civic engagement and economic development. He advocates building stronger connections between people in neighbourhoods and cities. Similarly, Mattis and Black argue that high levels of social capital exist in poorer communities and that the concept should be recognised and studied.
A person feels anxiety or fear that is out of proportion to the situation they are facing. This leads to avoidance behaviours, limiting their life activities and causing distress. Avoidance can lead to more serious psychological problems, such as depression and suicidal thoughts.
The findings in the current study show that neighbourhood perceptions of a high crime level, and especially perceptions of serious crime, predict place avoidance. This association is strong in the centres of cities, towns and rural municipalities, and it is more pronounced in women than men. Other neighbourhood variables, such as crime rates, visible disorder, urbanity and age structure, do not seem to have a significant effect on perceived safety and avoidance.
A number of studies, for example Hibdon et al. (Citation2016) and Ratnayake (Citation2017), use survey data to explore the relationship between feelings of unsafety and place avoidance. These studies find that feeling unsafe is associated with avoidance of public spaces such as schools, student residences and bus stops.