Most studies of fear of crime assume that is rimarily induced by direct or indirect contact with a criminal event. Consequently programs designed to deal with this problem focus on either increased police protection or a number of crime prevention programs. In this study, Dan A. Lewis and Greta W. Salem raise questions both about the validity of these assumptions and the effectiveness of the programs. A five-year investigation has led the authors to challenge those theories that focus only on the psychological responses to victimizations and fail to take into account the social and political environments within which such fears are shaped and nurtured.
Explicitly laying out a “social control” perspective which informs their research and analysis, the authors examine the fear of crime in ten neighorhoods in Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia which represent the range of communities typically found in urban areas. On the basis of their analysis the authors contend that fear of crime is not related to exposure or knowledge about criminal events alone but also stems from residents’ concerns about broad changes taking place in their neighborhoods. Many people, they argue, are afraid not only because crime occurs but also because they believe that they have lost control over the environment in which they live.
Lewis and Salem conclude that the eradication of fear of crime requires strategies that move beyond the traditional crime prevention programs to consider ways to restore the control that community residents feel they have lost and the possibilities for a more equitable distribution of security in urban areas.