"On Attitudes and Behaviors," in Dan A. Lewis (ed.) Reactions to Crime. Newbury
Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1981, 19-45.
This chapter examines what people think about crime and what they do in response to it. It is
easy to assume there is a simple relationship between the two, and that those perceiving more
crime or experiencing more fear are the most likely to respond to the problem. However,
research indicates there is not a simple one-to-one relationship between perception and
action, even when the fear component of those perceptions is involved. In an attempt to clarify
this apparent paradox, the chapter first examines what people think about crime. Popular
perceptions of crime can be classified as “beliefs about crime,” “assessments of risk,” and
“fear of victimization.”  These perceptual dimensions are related in different ways to people’s
experiences and neighborhood conditions. The next section enumerates things individuals can
do to protect themselves from victimization and to reduce crime. These include precautions
against personal crime, household protection, participation in community organizations, and
flight to the suburbs. The last section of this chapter summarizes several theories which link
perceptions and behavior.
The Various Meanings of Fear," in Wolfgang Bilsky, Christian Pfeiffer and Peter
Wetzels (eds.), The Fear of Crime and Criminal Victimization. Stuttgart: Enke, 1993,
There have been several efforts to clarify the meaning of the concept of "fear of crime". Most
found it troublesome that there is no clear consensus among researchers on what the
concept fear of crime means or how it is best measured. This chapter argues that this
apparent heterogeneity of meaning simply reflects the fact that fear of crime is a general
concept. It is suited for everyday conversation (Americans frequently talk about fear of crime
and its social and political effects), but the concept needs to be refined for research
purposes. How it is best defined depends upon the purpose of the research and the
theoretical framework within which the research is being conducted. Therefore, any specific
definition of fear of crime is not correct or incorrect; rather, it is either useful or not useful, and
that is revealed by the results of the research. Most research on fear of crime seems to
conceptualize fear in one of four ways. Three of these definitions are cognitive in nature; they
reflect people's concern about crime, their asessments of personal risk of victimization, and
the perceived threat of crime in their environment. The remaining approach to defining fear is
behavioral; some studies conceptualize fear entirely in how it is reflected in things that people
do in response to crime. Dissecting these variations in how fear of crime is defined is
important, because they make a great deal of difference in what researchers have found.
Different definitions of fear can lead to different substantive research conclusions. This is
particularly apparent in research on the elderly, one of the special foci of the KFN's
victimization research. A large body of research suggests that for many older persons fear of
crime, rather than actual victimization, presents the biggest problem. It is often claimed the
elderly living in American cities are over-concentrated in bad neighborhoods and are
concerned about conditions and crime in their neighborhood. It is also claimed that the elderly
feel hopelessly vulnerable to crime, which can be evaluated using measures of self-diagnosed
risk. Finally, it is claimed the elderly are "prisoners of fear," traumatized by the thought of
venturing out because of the risks they would face. However, definition of fear is used. By
many measures the elderly are not more fearful at all. This chapter illustrates this, using
surveys from the US, Britain, and the Western area of the Federal Republic.