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Keywords:

  • Fear of crime;
  • urban neighborhoods;
  • inner-city residents;
  • welfare recipients;
  • and crime;
  • disorder;
  • and incivilities

Research on fear of crime has been primarily quantitative, focused mostly on “fear,”“crime,” and “disorder.” Little work has investigated alternative reactions, including “safety,” when crime/disorder are prevalent. With the purpose of exploring reactions to crime and underlying processes, this study applies a grounded theory approach to in-depth interviews and field observations with a group of 69 disadvantaged urban residents, randomly selected from a sample of Chicago welfare recipients. Results suggest that fear, absent in neighborhoods with incivilities and in many violent areas, is not the prevalent response to local crime/disorder; “cues” other than crime/disorder trigger fears; fear may not be of crime/disorder; and neighborhood problems elicit precautions, which neither influence fear nor “paralyze” respondents. The processes underlying these reactions are discussed.