Crime Prevention Law Enforcement and Public Opinions About Crime - The Fear Of Crime

percent respondents table poll

The fear of becoming a victim of crime can undermine community relationships. People may withdraw physically and emotionally, losing contact with their neighbors and weakening the social fabric of their lives and communities. In a 2003 Gallup Poll, 2 percent of those polled named crime and violence as the most important problem facing the country. This percentage was down significantly from 37 percent in 1994, the highest percentage recorded in the past 20 years. The mid-1990s saw the highest percentages of those who saw crime and violence as the most important issue. Since that time the percentages have decreased dramatically. By 2001 the number had fallen to only 1 percent, and only 2 percent in 2002. (See Table 9.9.)

More Crime or Less Crime Today?

Another Gallup Poll reported that 62 percent of Americans thought there was more crime in the United States in 2002 than in the year before. (See Table 9.10.) That figure is higher than the 41 percent of respondents in 2001 who felt there was more crime than the year before, and the 47 percent of respondents in 2000 who felt the same. But in 1989, 84 percent of respondents felt there was more crime than the year before.

In 2002 more women (70 percent) felt there was more crime than there had been the year before than did men (53 percent). Seventy-six percent of blacks thought so, compared to 60 percent of whites. Fifty-eight percent of the youngest respondents (18 to 29 years of age) and 68

TABLE 9.12
Public opinion poll on respondents' fear of walking alone at night, within one mile of own area, 1965–2002
QUESTION: "IS THERE ANY AREA NEAR WHERE YOU LIVE—THAT IS, WITHIN A MILE—WHERE YOU WOULD BE AFRAID TO WALK ALONE AT NIGHT?"

Yes No
1965 34% 66%
1967 31 67
1968 35 62
1972 42 57
1975 45 55
1977 45 55
1979 42 58
1981 45 55
1982 48 52
1983 45 55
1989 43 57
1990 40 59
1992 44 56
1993 43 56
1994 39 60
1996 39 60
1997 38 61
2000 34 66
2001 30 69
2002 35 64
SOURCE: "Table 2.35: Respondents Reporting Fear of Walking Alone at Night, Selected Years 1965–2002," in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, 2003. The Gallup Organization, Inc.

percent of the oldest (65 or older) felt that there was more crime in the United States than the year before. Those who were less educated and had more limited earnings were more likely to feel that there was more crime in the United States than the year prior.

Some 37 percent of respondents in another Gallup Poll said that they believed there was more crime in their area in 2002 than there was a year ago. This is up from the 26 percent who perceived more crime in their area in 2001, but well below the over 50 percent during the years from June 1989 to 1992 and the 46 percent in 1996 and 1997. (See Table 9.11.)

Feeling Afraid

In 2002 the Gallup Poll found that about one in three Americans (35 percent) was afraid to walk alone at night. Almost the same proportion of Americans felt that way in 1965 (34 percent). Through the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s the proportion increased to between 40 and 45 percent, and declined steadily from 1993 to 2001, before rising again in 2002. (See Table 9.12.)

Asked if they engaged in selective behaviors because of concern over crime, 43 percent of Gallup Poll respondents in 2002 reported avoiding going to certain places or neighborhoods, 30 percent kept a dog for protection, 24 percent had a burglar alarm, and 21 percent reported buying a gun for protection. (See Table 9.13.)

TABLE 9.13
Public opinion poll on selected behaviors of respondents because of concern over crime, 2002
QUESTION: "PLEASE TELL ME WHICH, IF ANY, OF THESE THINGS YOU, YOURSELF, DO OR HAVE DONE."

Sex
Total Male Female
Avoid going to certain places or neighborhoods you might otherwise want to go to 43% 37% 49%
Keep a dog for protection 30 26 34
Had a burglar alarm installed in your home 24 25 23
Bought a gun for protection of yourself or your home 21 27 16
Carry mace or pepper spray 16 9 22
Carry a knife for defense 11 15 7
Carry a gun for defense 10 16 5
SOURCE: "Table 2.38: Respondents Reporting Whether They Engaged in Selected Behaviors Because of Concern over Crime, 2002," in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC, 2003. The Gallup Organization, Inc.

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or