The relationship between burglary, crime rates and "fear of crime" measures: a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University

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Date
1993
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Massey University
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Abstract
"Fear of crime" is an area that has attracted considerable research attention in recent decades. The primary aim of the present study was to examine the influence of crime-related predictors on perceptions and behaviours relevant to domestic burglary - a crime traditionally deemed to be of little importance. The 153 subjects were selected on the basis of victimization status. Subjects were divided into three groups - victims of domestic burglary, indirect victims of domestic burglary and nonvictims. A severity index was developed to investigate the influence of burglaries of different severities. Subjects were also selected from three areas of Palmerston North, representative of high, medium and low burglary risk areas. "Fear of crime" measures included responses to crime perceptions measures and protective actions engaged in. Crime perceptions measures included an individual's assessment of his/her perceived likelihood of future victimization and assessments of the base rate of burglary. Results did not support the presence of victimization effects. There were no significant differences on any of the variables between victims, indirect victims and nonvictims, despite estimations tending in the expected directions. The definition of a victim used in the current study (up to one year post-burglary) may have been insensitive to the presence of victimization effects. Future research should address this issue. Despite no significant findings pertaining to the severity index this is also an area identified as requiring further investigation. The burglary rate of an area had no influence on one's assessment of personal vulnerability. However, respondents were aware of the relative "safety" (in terms of burglary rates) of their neighbourhoods and generally viewed their own neighbourhood as being "safer" than Palmerston North as a whole. Despite this realistic appraisal of relative burglary rates, estimates of burglary rates were far in excess of the official incidence of burglary. Future research should address why these estimates were so inflated and what are the implications of these findings. Results about protective actions revealed that on the whole the public was ill­ informed about options available to them, and that there was considerable variability in the number of protective actions undertaken. The results of the present study indicate that a neighbourhood level approach to crime prevention and information dissemination would be most appropriate.
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New Zealand, Fear of crime, Victims of crimes surveys, Burglary
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