Victimization Rates, Exposure to Risk, and Fear of Crime



    1. Washington State University
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    • Mark C. Stafford is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Washington State University. His published work includes articles on city crime rates and fear of crime, along with a forthcoming chapter on gang delinquency in an edited book by Robert F. Meier about major forms of criminal behavior. His current research focuses on variation in U.S. suicide rates and experimental tests of the deterrence doctrine.


    1. University of Texas at Austin
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    • Omer R. Galle is Professor of Sociology and Research Associate at the Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. His current research interests include racial occupational and income inequality in urban labor markets, labor force composition and industrial productivity, and the demography of urban growth and decline.

  • AUTHORS' NOTE: This research was supported partially by NICHD grant HD-6911. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Michael J. Hindelang, who supplied us with the victimization data, and we thank Mark Warr, Vicki K. Kullberg, Robert F. Meier, Patricia L. Wasielewski, and an anonymous reviewer for their useful comments and suggestions.


Studies of fear of crime repeatedly point to an apparent paradox: fear of crime and risk of victimization are related inversely among demographic groups (i.e., age, race, and sex groups). However, data from surveys of Chicago residents show that fear of crime is related positively to victimization rates once they are adjusted for exposure to risk. When demographic variables are included with the adjusted rates as predictors of fear of crime, age and sex effects persist. Even so the present findings indicate that fear of crime should not be interpreted as an irrational or unjustified response and that fear can be reduced by lowering victimization rates.