The fear drop

Authored by: Marnix Eysink Smeets , Pim Foekens

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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Both in the social debate and in discussions among criminologists, a popular narrative maintains that while crime has fallen in many countries, citizens nevertheless continue to feel unsafe. Hope (2003) observes, for example, that the international reductions in crime ‘have had little impact upon the fear of crime’ (Hope 2003: 14). Dittmann (2005) observes that between 1996 and 2000, while crime actually fell in that period, fear of crime increased in the majority of E.U. countries. Innes and Fielding (2002) note that in the United Kingdom ‘the fall in crime has not been matched by a corresponding decline in reported fear of crime’, which implies the existence of a reassurance gap (ACPO 2001) in the U.K. Previously, Warr (1993) had already discussed a relative stability in the fear of crime based on observations made in the United States. However, the authors also made similar observations relatively recently. For example, Davis and Dossetor (2010) believe that the concern with some crime types among the Australian population has increased, ‘despite an actual decline in crime rates for the offences in question’ (2010: 1). Renauer (2009) notes that the population of Oregon (U.S.) has apparently not noticed that they are dealing with a drop of crime. Zimring indicates that such phenomena do not surprise him, as he says ‘it’s typical for people to ignore drops in crime’ (Zimring in Beam 2011: 1). Seen from that perspective, it is not inconceivable that Ditton, Farrall, Bannister and Gilchrist propose ‘as a “criminological maxim” that fear of crime climbs when crime rates climb, but fails to fall when crime falls’ (Ditton et al. 2000, quoted in Skogan 2011: 102).

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