CRIME &Mindel

Ferguson,
DELINQUENCY
/ FEAR OF/ CRIME
MONTHIN
XXXX
DALLAS
10.1177/0011128705285039

Modeling Fear of Crime in Dallas Neighborhoods: A Test of Social Capital Theory
Kristin M. Ferguson
Charles H. Mindel
This study tested a model of the effects of different predictors on individuals’levels of fear
of crime in Dallas neighborhoods. Given its dual focus on individual perceptions and
community-level interactions, social capital theory was selected as the most appropriate
framework to explore fear of crime within the neighborhood milieu. A structural equation model was developed and tested. Several positive influences of social capital on lowering fear were identified, including police presence in the neighborhood, social support
networks, neighborhood satisfaction, and collective efficacy. This study suggests that
social capital can be mobilized as a public safety, community resource in high-crime
neighborhoods.
Keywords: Social capital; fear of crime; perceived risk; incivility; neighborhood satisfaction; collective efficacy

More than three decades have passed since the emergence of the first
studies exploring fear of crime in the United States (Baumer, 1979; Clemente
& Kleinman, 1977; Garofalo, 1979). Over time, three main areas have been
largely emphasized in the extant research. First, considerable evidence supports the influence of underlying demographic factors and the interactions
among social structural correlates on levels of fear. Generally, findings reveal
that fear of crime tends to increase with age, that women express higher levels
of fear than men, and that non-Whites are more fearful of crime than Whites
KRISTIN M. FERGUSON, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the
University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in international comparative social
welfare policy and social work in a binational, dual-degree program between the University of
Texas at Arlington and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León in Monterrey, Mexico. Her
research interests include homeless and street-living youth, social and spiritual capital, outcomes
evaluation, and social development interventions with street youth. CHARLES H. MINDEL,
Ph.D., is a professor of social work at the University of Texas at Arlington. He has been a faculty
member at University of Texas at Arlington since 1976. His primary research concerns in recent
years have been in the fields of program evaluation. Recently, he has also been conducting major
evaluations of program effectiveness in the areas of community policing, gang prevention, juvenile offender services, substance abuse prevention, and in services to victims of domestic
violence.
CRIME & DELINQUENCY, Vol. 49 No. X, Month 2006 1DOI: 10.1177/0011128705285039
© 2006 Sage Publications

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CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

(see Rountree & Land, 1996). Second, much of the existing work on this
topic has treated fear as both an emotional and cognitive response to crimerelated stimuli; nonetheless, several more recent studies have sought to differentiate between fear of crime and perceived risk of crime as distinct outcome variables. Whereas fear of crime refers to one’s emotional response to
crime-specific incidents, perceived risk of crime connotes one’s cognitive
assessment of surrounding crime or victimization risk (Ferraro, 1995; Ferraro
& LaGrange, 1987; Rountree & Land, 1996). Finally, previous research has
also emphasized the relationship between macrolevel, community variables,
and residents’ levels of fear. A variety of structural factors involved in
explaining fear have been identified, including high community crime
indexes, high levels of racial and class segregation, high population density,
residential instability, low social cohesion, civic disengagement, and political apathy (Pain, 2000; Rountree & Land, 1996; Sampson, 2001).
Identifying the individual, community, and structural correlates of fear of
crime has gained importance as Americans’ feelings of fear and anxiety
regarding their personal safety have increased during the past decade. Nevertheless, reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the end of the past
decade show a decrease in criminal activity, specifically in violent criminal
acts, compared to previous years (May & Dunaway, 2000). This paradox
leads to speculation that fear of crime may largely be a result of individuals’
perceptions of latent influences present in the surrounding environment
rather than of manifest criminal activity in a particular community, per se. In
an effort to further explore the relationship between individual and community factors and fear of crime, social science researchers have turned to the
notion of social capital, both as a possible explanation and as a potential community-level resource that can be mobilized to enhance neighborhood safety
(Bursik, 1988; Sampson, 2001). Despite disagreement in the existing literature as to how social capital is defined, authors concur that it consists of a set
of components found in social associations and interactions among people
that, when activated, empower individuals and facilitate cooperation toward
a mutual benefit. In essence, social capital refers to the social support networks, local institutions, shared norms of trust and reciprocity, and collective activities among community members to produce a common good
(Coleman, 1990; Putnam, 1993, 1995).
The fear of crime research has largely been driven by several predominant
theoretical frameworks, including social disorganization theory and diverse
criminological theories. Drawing from these conceptual frameworks, various recent studies testing nonrecursive models have focused on the reciprocal relationships among disorder, crime, fear, and neighborhood cohesion
(Bellair, 2000; Ferraro, 1995; Markowitz, Bellair, Liska, & Liu, 2001;

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Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). To date, however, empirical studies
assessing the relevance of social capital theory to fear of crime are scarce
within the literature. Thus, the purpose of this study is to test a hypothesized
structural equation model that builds on the work of Ferraro (1995) to determine whether the social capital theoretical framework can enhance our
understanding of the interrelationship among the key components of social
capital and citizens’ levels of fear of crime. Both the social capital and fear of
crime bodies of literature have guided the selection of all predictors of fear of
crime as well as the causal direction of the hypothesized model. Furthermore,
given that much of the extant research has failed to distinguish between general, cognitive fear (i.e., perceived risk) and offense-specific, emotionally
based fear, this study assesses the relationship of the proposed correlates on
each concept separately. The key components of social capital are discussed
later in relation to fear of crime.

REVIEW OF SOCIAL CAPITAL AND
FEAR OF CRIME LITERATURE
Victimization
Review of the existing literature on the relationship between prior victimization and fear of crime uncovers mixed results. Multiple studies have demonstrated that prior victimization of criminal activity has a positive effect on
fear of crime (see May & Dunaway, 2000). Directly experiencing or indirectly witnessing a victimization experience in one’s own neighborhood can
augment an individual’s level of anxiety, as the criminal activity has become
a real and manifest event in the victim’s psyche rather than a mere image projected by the media or other symbol of crime present in the neighborhood,
such as graffiti or vandalism (Johnston, 2001). Other researchers, however,
have identified a weak relationship (Garofalo, 1979). Moreover, still others
have focused on the fear-victimization paradox, which describes the finding
that although the actual rates of victimization are higher for males than
females, females tend to experience higher levels of fear of victimization
(Ferraro, 1996; Warr, 1985). Whereas this inevitably suggests that fear of
crime may be much more a result of subjective experiences than objective
ones, research shows that women are overrepresented in certain types of
crimes (i.e., domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment) that are often
underreported to both authorities and in surveys (Sacco, 1990). Stafford and
Galle (1984) purport that because of this reporting bias, victimization levels
in women may not be as low as previously suggested.

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CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

Empirical precedents indicate that prior victimization can also be influenced by the surrounding circumstances in the neighborhood environment.
Several authors propose that victimization experiences are more likely to
occur in high-risk neighborhoods, where fear of crime is already high
(Johnston, 2001; Lane, 1998; May & Dunaway, 2000). Based on previous
findings, high levels of prior victimization are expected to be associated with
adopting increased preventive and protective measures and increased police
presence in the neighborhood as well as with high levels of perceived risk and
fear of crime. In contrast, high levels of prior victimization are expected to
have a negative impact on neighborhood satisfaction.
Perceived Neighborhood Incivility
A vast body of literature suggests that fear of crime is intensified in neighborhoods characterized by social impoverishment and dilapidated infrastructure (LaGrange, Ferraro, & Supancic, 1992; Sampson, 2001; Thompson
& Krause, 1998; Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000). Similarly, studies assessing
neighborhood-level crime indexes reveal that crimes involving interpersonal
violence are more likely to occur in disadvantaged neighborhoods characterized by economic inequality (Pain, 2000; Sampson, 2001). Researchers have
consistently found a significant, positive relationship between neighborhood
incivilities (i.e., litter, vandalism, abandoned buildings, etc.) and perceived
risk of crime (Ferraro, 1995) as well as with fear of crime (see Lane, 1998, for
a review; May & Dunaway, 2000; Pain, 2000; Silverman & Della-Giustina,
2001). These findings are also consistent with the premises of social disorganization theory: the higher the social disorganization and physical disorder in
a given community, the greater the likelihood that residents will experience
feelings of vulnerability and anxiety to crime and its consequences (Sampson
& Groves, 1989). Prior research testing social disorganization theory also
suggests that increased neighborhood disorder reduces community cohesion
(Markowitz et al., 2001). On the basis of these findings, it is hypothesized
that high levels of perceived neighborhood incivility will be associated with
high levels of victimization, high police presence, and high levels of both perceived risk of crime and fear of crime. Conversely, high levels of perceived
neighborhood incivility are expected to negatively influence both neighborhood satisfaction and collective efficacy.
Police Presence
One of the oft-cited, positive externalities of community policing in local
neighborhoods is a reduction in residents’ levels of fear of crime (Johnston,

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

5

2001; Sampson, 2001; Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001). Compared with
traditional policing in which public authorities generally react to overt criminal activities and their consequences, community policing adopts a more
proactive position in addressing fear of crime by seeking to generate local
solutions to decrease residents’anxiety related to local crime activity (Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001).
As such, police presence can serve to galvanize local residents to organize
and participate in local crime-prevention strategies, such as Neighborhood
Watch and anonymous reporting of criminal activity (Johnston, 2001). Likewise, partnerships between public authorities and local citizens can produce
positive results such as increasing community safety and lowering residents’
levels of fear of crime. Combining resources that are both exogenous and
endogenous to the community, police-citizen partnerships help to maintain
social stability as well as to promote local norms of social control (Johnston,
2001; Sampson, 2001). Building on these findings, the present study hypothesizes that high police presence in the neighborhood will positively influence
levels of collective efficacy, and high police presence in the neighborhood
will negatively influence residents’levels of perceived risk and fear of crime.
Social Support Networks
Although the social capital literature clearly supports the notion of social
networks as an indicator of positive outcomes and enhanced well-being, evidence of its influence on reducing anxiety and fear of crime is less clear.
Whereas Agnew (1985) suggests that involvement in social support networks can enhance community residents’ access to information and human
and material resources, which in turn can decrease the onset of incidents of
victimization, other findings reveal the opposite. Thompson and Krause
(1998) discovered that embeddedness in social support networks had no
effect on allaying feelings of anxiety and vulnerability related to one’s residence in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Conversely, Sacco (1993) found that
increased participation in social networks actually intensified residents’ feelings of anxiety about being victimized by neighborhood crime.
Drawing from the propositions of social capital theory and the findings
that supportive social networks can enhance overall well-being, it is hypothesized that high levels of social support networks will lead to high levels of
neighborhood satisfaction and high collective efficacy. High levels of social
support are also believed to have a positive impact on adopting preventive
and protective measures, based on the speculation that individuals with supportive networks will be more likely to undertake safety mechanisms to protect themselves and those close to them from crime. Despite the apparent

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CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

ambiguity regarding the effects of social networks on fear of crime, it is
hypothesized that high levels of social support will negatively influence fear
of crime, given the supportive role of social networks within the literature.
Collective Efficacy
The notion of collective efficacy refers to the shared expectations and
mutual civic engagement by community members in local social control,
with an emphasis on residents’ joint capacity to act together to generate solutions to local problems (Sampson, 2001). Examples of community safety initiatives grounded in principles of collective efficacy include Neighborhood
Watch and public forums, in which community problems are discussed and
locally driven solutions are generated. Given the variety of personal and collective safety mechanisms to which individuals can be exposed via their participation in community activities with other residents, collective efficacy is
hypothesized to positively influence adopting preventive measures to protect
oneself from crime.
Although many community-based, public-safety efforts aim to combat
crime and reduce citizens’ levels of fear of crime, considerable empirical evidence indicates that the relationship between collective efficacy and fear of
crime is not as clear as one may believe. Whereas some studies demonstrate
the effectiveness of programs such as Neighborhood Watch in achieving
their intended effects of lowering neighborhood fear of crime, other studies
show that crime vigilance groups can inadvertently increase the levels of fear
of crime in a given neighborhood (see Rosenbaum, 1987, for a complete
review). Collective efficacy can, however, have an indirect effect on fear of
crime—that is, through a third mediating variable. Evidence does exist in the
literature linking collective efficacy to increased neighborhood satisfaction,
which in turn, can lower fear of crime (Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001). It
is thus hypothesized that high collective efficacy will have a positive impact
on neighborhood satisfaction.
Neighborhood Satisfaction
An individual’s perceived level of neighborhood satisfaction is another
predictor of fear of crime substantiated by prior research. Assessing the
effects of neighborhood satisfaction on fear of crime with the elderly,
McCoy, Wooldredge, Cullen, Dubeck, and Browning (1996) discovered
that an individual’s overall level of dissatisfaction with the surrounding
neighborhood was the best predictor of fear of crime. Likewise, in a study
exploring fear of crime in women residing in public housing, Alvi, Schwartz,

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

7

DeKeseredy, and Maume (2001) found that next to neighborhood disorder,
neighborhood dissatisfaction had the strongest effect on fear of crime. As a
subjective measure of neighborhood quality, overall satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) reflects residents’ perceptions of the extent to which other more
objective measures, such as symbols of crime, visible incivilities and neighborhood disorder succeed in provoking fear in them. As such, in modeling
fear of crime, inclusion of neighborhood satisfaction as a mediating variable
between perceived neighborhood disorder and both perceived risk of crime
and fear of crime can facilitate a better understanding as to why residents
sharing the same environmental and structural conditions can have vastly different levels of cognitive and emotional fear of crime (Alvi et al., 2001;
Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001). In light of existing findings, high levels
of neighborhood satisfaction are hypothesized to lead to low levels of
perceived risk of crime and fear of crime.
Perceived Risk of Crime
Prior research suggests that an individual’s perceived level of risk of crime
in the neighborhood is a strong predictor of emotional fear. Earlier studies
tended to focus on the relationship between sociodemographic variables
(e.g., gender, race, age, etc.) and perceived risk. Findings generally reveal
that both women and the elderly report higher perceived risk of crime
(Baumer, 1979; Garofalo, 1979). More recent work has focused on conceptually distinguishing between cognitive perceptions of risk and actual fear of
crime (Ferraro, 1995; LaGrange et al., 1992; Rountree & Land, 1996; Warr,
1987). Findings from these studies suggest that risk perception is an important predictor of fear of crime and that risk and fear constitute distinct concepts. Likewise, Ferraro (1995) found perceived risk to be the strongest predictor of fear of crime as well as a moderate predictor of efforts to protect
oneself from crime. In light of these findings, high levels of perceived risk are
hypothesized to lead to both increased preventive and protective measures
and high levels of fear of crime.
Preventive and Protective Measures
From a citizens’ perspective, by acting in tandem with community-policing efforts and other community members to reduce crime, local residents
can also assume a proactive stance in addressing and lowering their levels of
fear of crime. Several authors refer to this notion as active citizenship, in
which community residents undertake security strategies to reduce their anxiety toward crime (Johnston, 2001; Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000). Examples

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CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

+

Gender

+

Victimization

+

_

+

Preventive /
Protective
Measures

+
+

_
_

Race

_

+

_

+

+
_
+

Incivility
+

_

Neighborhood
Satisfaction

_

Fear of Crime

_

+
_

_

+
+

Age

+

+

_

+

Social Support
Networks

+

+
+

+
_

Family
Income

Perceived
Risk of Crime

+

_

Police Presence
in Nghbrhd

Figure 1:

+

_
+

+

Collective
Efficacy

Hypothesized Structural Model

of individual, proactive security activities consist of buying a large watch dog
to guard one’s home and property, carrying a self-defense weapon, or installing extra security devices in one’s home, such as burglar alarms. As such,
adopting increased measures to protect oneself is anticipated to be associated
with lower levels of fear of crime.

HYPOTHESIZED MODEL
Coalescing the oft-cited correlates of fear of crime, Figure 1 displays the
structural portion of the hypothesized full structural equation model of citizens’ levels of fear of crime. The causal ordering and specific hypotheses are
based on social capital theory and empirical precedents of fear of crime.

METHODS
Data and Sample
The data used in the present study originate from a research project assessing crime in Dallas neighborhoods, which began in 1995 and was funded by a
National Institute of Justice community-policing grant (# 95-IJ-CX-0070).
Respondents for the survey were sampled using random telephone numbers

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

9

purchased from a commercial survey sampling company. The phone numbers were selected by use of the random digit dialing method. Eligible participants were residents of Dallas older than the age of 18 years. Interviews were
conducted by college students who were trained and supervised by project
staff. Calls were conducted primarily in the evenings and on weekends during the day to avoid oversampling persons who typically stay at home during
the day. The telephone survey was conducted between March and May of
1996. Individuals were called back up to four times to minimize nonresponse. The first person who qualified for the survey was interviewed.
The sample consisted of 1,367 respondents with a response rate of 33.4%.
The mean age was 42.7 years (SD = 17.2 years). Approximately 59% were
female; 45% were married, and 60% were White, not of Hispanic origin.
Additionally, 63% of the respondents held more than a high school degree;
59% were employed full time and 52% had a total household income of more
than $40,000 for all sources before taxes in 1995.
Although it was impossible to determine whether the nonrespondents differed substantially from the respondents, we were able to compare the characteristics of the sample to U.S. Census population data for the city of Dallas.
Our sample somewhat approximates the population of Dallas residents
across several key predictors but slightly overrepresents females, Whites,
and educated individuals. Roughly 50% of the 1,188,580 Dallas city residents were female; 49% were married, and 53% were White, not of Hispanic
origin. Furthermore, 51% had attained more than a high school degree, and
47% of Dallas residents had a total household income of $40,000 or more for
all sources before taxes in 1999 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000a, 2000b, 2000c).
Measures
Victimization. Prior victimization refers to whether neighborhood residents were exposed to a range of possible attempted criminal activities, either
successful or unsuccessful. Each variable was dichotomous in nature, with 1
referring to a positive victimization experience or attempt. Using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), 4 indicators were selected from the original 15
items. Factor loadings ranged from .40 to .58 (see Table 1).
Perceived neighborhood incivility. Perceived neighborhood incivility connotes the extent to which residents consider a variety of signs of visible disorder (e.g., vacant lots, abandoned cars and buildings, graffiti, public drinking,
loitering, truancy, and criminal activity) to be problems in the neighborhood.
In the present study, this predictor of fear of crime is operationalized by the
sum score of the 18 total items of a social disorder scale. High values on this

10

Police presence
in neighborhood

Neighborhood
incivility

Victimization

Factor

Police talk friendly

Police frisk

Police check alleys

Police give tickets

Sexual attack
Sum problems

Theft self

Physical threaten

Physical attack

Variable Label
Has anyone physically attacked you or actually
been violent with you in an argument or fight?
In the past year, has anyone threatened or tried
to hurt you even though they did not actually hurt you?
Has anyone tried to steal something from you
forcefully even though they did not get it?
Has anyone sexually attacked you or tried to?
Composite score of responses of big problem, some
problem, or no problem to list of 18 neighborhood
problems (e.g., vacant lots, abandoned cars,
abandoned houses, graffiti, public drinking, truancy,
drug dealing, etc.)
During the past month, how often have you seen . . .
a police officer pull someone over for a traffic ticket
in your neighborhood?
A police officer patrolling in the alley or checking
garages or in the back of buildings?
A police officer searching or frisking anyone here in
the neighborhood or breaking up groups or
arresting anyone?
A police officer chatting or having a friendly
conversation with people in the neighborhood?

Operational Definition (Survey Item)

0-2

0-2

0-2

0-2

0-1
5-54

0-1

0-1

0-1

Range

0.509

0.343

0.399

0.904

0.010
24.691

0.020

0.060

0.040

M

0.691

0.596

0.659

0.769

0.115
8.153

0.146

0.241

0.198

SD

TABLE 1: Definitions of Measures and Descriptions of Model Variables for Victimization, Incivility, and Police Presence

.94

Cronbach
Alpha (α)

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

11

composite variable reflect high levels of perceived neighborhood incivility,
as reported by neighborhood residents. All items from the original scale were
used, given that CFA produced moderate to high factor loadings, ranging
from .59 to .77. Also, the Cronbach’s alpha for the 18 indicators was well
above conventional standards at α = .94 (see Table 1).
Police presence. The concept of police presence in the neighborhood is
defined as the frequency of occasions in which residents have seen a police
officer or officers in the neighborhood. Police presence in the neighborhood
is operationalized by four indicators, which were selected from the original
seven survey items on the basis of construct validity. CFA produced factor
loadings that ranged from .54 to .69. Responses were scored so that higher
values represent greater police presence in the neighborhood (see Table 1).
Social support networks. Social networks connote the social relationships
between residents in a community and the resulting social support that can be
derived from these interactions. In the original survey, four items measured
residents’ supportive networks. CFA results reveal that two of these had high
factor loadings (.77 and .78), whereas the other two had low loadings. The
two indicators with high loadings were selected for this study and refer to
whether neighbors asked each other to watch their homes for them while
away. Higher values on the survey items are associated with higher levels of
social support networks (see Table 2).
Collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is defined as the civic engagement
activities performed by community members in an effort to solve local problems. Four items from the original survey measured collective efficacy. CFA
findings indicate that two of these variables had moderate loadings of .55,
whereas the other loadings were less than the accepted cut-off of .40. In the
present study, collective efficacy assesses residents’ participation in collective-action initiatives, such as Neighborhood Watch and community meetings. Higher scores are associated with increased collective efficacy in the
neighborhood (see Table 2).
Neighborhood satisfaction. Neighborhood satisfaction refers to the extent
to which residents feel positively about their surrounding neighborhood context. This single-item indicator is defined as subjects’ responses to the question “On the whole, how do you feel about your neighborhood as a place to
live?” High scores indicate a greater degree of overall neighborhood satisfaction (see Table 2).

12
Your home

Social support
networks

Place to live

Neighborhood
satisfaction
Perceived risk
of crime
Perceived risk

Neighbor watch
Attend Meetings

Collective efficacy

Neighbor home

Variable Label

Factor
Please think about the last time when no one was home
for at least a day or two. Did you ask a neighbor to
watch your home?
In the past year, have any of your neighbors asked you
to watch their home?
Have you ever participated in neighborhood watch?
Have you been able to attend any community meetings
held in your neighborhood?
On the whole, how do you feel about your neighborhood
as a place to live?
How often does worry about crime prevent you from
doing things that you would like to do in your
neighborhood?

Operational Definition (Survey Item)

2.077

0.310
3.259

0-1
1-4
1-4

0.320

0.540

0.550

M

0-1

0-1

0-1

Range

.983

.462
.829

.467

.498

.498

SD

Cronbach
Alpha (α)

TABLE 2: Definitions of Measures and Descriptions of Model Variables for Social Support, Collective Efficacy, Satisfaction, and Perceived Risk

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

13

Perceived risk of crime. Perceived risk of crime denotes a general,
cognitively based assessment of surrounding risk in the neighborhood. The
single-item indicator assesses how often the individual’s worry prevents him
or her from going out in the neighborhood. Responses were measured on a 4point ordinal scale ranging from never to very often. High values reflect
higher levels of perceived risk (see Table 2).
Preventive and protective measures. Preventive and protective measures
refer to the individual security strategies residents may adopt to protect themselves and their homes from crime in the neighborhood. The factor is
operationalized by two composite variables, which were created by summing
the original survey items for each respective category. High values reflect a
greater amount of safety and security measures undertaken by residents to
protect themselves and their homes. Despite the modest reliability coefficients for the composite variables, the original indicators were used for each
variable on the basis of content validity, given that each item represents a specific type of safety measure that residents can carry out to protect themselves
and their homes (see Table 3).
Fear of crime. Fear of crime constitutes a measure of the crime-specific,
emotionally based fear of crime. It is operationalized by four of the five original variables, each measured on a 4-point ordinal scale, which seek to determine how often individuals think about being victimized, whether personally
or through property theft. High values are associated with higher levels of
emotional fear. CFA produced factor loadings that ranged from .72 to .77.
One variable from the original survey was dropped because of a substantially
lower factor score (see Table 3).
Control variables. Gender constituted a nominal, dichotomous variable,
consisting of 0 (males) and 1 (females). Race was a nominal, dichotomous
variable represented by 0 (non-Whites) and 1 (Whites). Age was a ratio-level
variable measured at the time of the survey. Last, family income was an ordinal-level variable ranging from 0 (< $10,000) to 6 (> $100,000). It was
defined as the total household income for all sources before taxes in 1995
(see Table 3).

RESULTS
Given that structural equation modeling is a multistage process, CFA was
first used to determine whether the measured variables were considered to be

14

Gender
Race
Age
Family income

Fear of crime

Protect home

Preventive or
protective
measures

Gender
Race
Age
Family income

Crime victim

Afraid at home

Home vandalized

Robbed

Protect self

Variable Label

Factor
Which of the following, if any, have you placed in your
home or apartment to make you feel safer from crime?
Burglar alarms, extra doors, window guards, weapons,
police department identification stickers, dogs,
outside security lights, other
Which of the following items do you carry to protect
yourself when you leave home?
Gun, knife, mace, tear gas, whistle
When you leave your home or apartment, how often do
you think about being robbed or physically assaulted?
When you leave your home, how often do you think about
it being broken into or vandalized while you’re away?
When you’re in your home, how often do you feel afraid
of being attacked or assaulted?
In general, how often are you fearful of being the victim
of a violent crime?
0 = Male; 1 = Female
0 = Non-Whites; 1 = Whites
Chronological age of respondent at time of survey
Total household income for all sources before taxes
for 1995: 0 ($10,000 or less) to 6 (more than $100,000)

Operational Definition (Survey Item)

0-1
0-1
15-91
0-6

1-4

1-4

1-4

1-4

0-4

0-8

Range

0.594
0.600
42.670
2.647

2.148

1.798

2.275

2.207

0.450

3.101

M

0.491
0.491
17.186
1.689

0.971

0.874

1.019

1.009

0.780

1.857

SD

.43

.60

Cronbach
Alpha (α)

TABLE 3: Definitions of Measures and Descriptions of Model Variables for Preventive Measures, Fear of Crime, and Control Variables

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

Physical
threaten

Physical
attack

Theft
self

Sexual
attack

Protect
home

1

0.165
-0.127

0.163

Protect
self

1
0.114

Victimization

0.072

Gender

15

Preventive /
Protective
Measures

0.081

0.213

0.234
0.252

-0.082

0.069

Race
-0.163

0.152

Incivility

-0.29
0.162

0.229

Robbed

0.173

Social Support
Networks

-0.117
-0.227

Your
home

0.098

Home
vandalized
1 Afraid at
home

0.472

Nghbr
home

0.131

-0.105

Family
Income

Fear of Crime

-0.19

1

0.243

Age

-0.141

Neighborhood
Satisfaction

0.526

Crime
victim

0.361
0.197 0.439

Police Presence
in Nghbrhd

0.135

1
Police talk
friendly

Police
frisk

Police check Police give
alleys
tickets

Collective
Efficacy

Perceived
Risk of Crime

1

Nghbr
watch

Attend
mtgs

Figure 2: Full Model of Fear of Crime
NOTE: An earlier iteration was run of the hypothesized full model, as depicted in Figure 1. Nonsignificant paths were dropped. The final full model displays only significant
paths.

valid indicators of their underlying constructs (Bollen, 1989). Factor loadings for all indicators in the overidentified measurement models were moderate to high and all loadings were statistically significant, lending credence to
the convergent validity of the indicators (Hatcher, 1994).
Structural Model Estimates for Fear of Crime
The measurement models were combined into a full latent variable model,
and a structural equation analysis was conducted using the AMOS 5.0 program and the maximum likelihood estimation method. Missing data were
handled using AMOS’s Full Information Maximum Likelihood method of
estimation (Arbuckle, 1996). The full latent model displayed in Figure 2 produced a testable, overidentified model with 250 degrees of freedom.
Table 4 presents the goodness-of-fit estimates for the full model. Based on
the measures of overall fit, there is evidence that the hypothesized model of
fear of crime, derived from social capital theory, is a good-fitting model. The
Comparative Fit Index was above the acceptable cut-off value, at .918
(desired values = .90 or higher). The root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA) of .039 is reflective of a good-fitting model (desired value < .05).

16

CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

TABLE 4: Overall Goodness-of-Fit Estimates for Modeling Fear of Crime

Fit Index

Estimate

Overall chi square
Degrees of freedom
Significance
Number of parameters
Discrepancy/degrees of freedom
Comparative Fit Index
Normed Fit Index
Relative Fit Index
Incremental Fit Index
Tucker-Lewis Index
Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA)
RMSEA lower bound
RMSEA upper bound
2
Overall R (for fear of crime)

768.0
250
0.001
100
3.01
.918
.884
.849
.919
.893
.039
.036
.042
.508

The relatively narrow confidence interval ranging from .036 to .042 indicates
a high degree of precision (Byrne, 2001). As such, one can be 90% confident
that the true RMSEA value in the population is located within the range of
.036 and .042. The overall R2 for fear of crime was 0.508. Thus, the 12 predictor variables in this model account for 51% of the variance in fear of crime.
With respect to the individually hypothesized relationships among the
variables in the model, the initial speculations were fairly accurate. Standardized regression coefficients are listed in Table 5 and explained more fully
later on by predictor variables.
Victimization
As hypothesized, victimization was found to have a significant and positive impact on adopting preventive and protective measures (β = .114, p <
.01), on police presence in the neighborhood (β = .213, p < .001), on perceived risk of crime (β = .165, p < .001), and on fear of crime (β = .081, p <
.05). The effects of victimization on these four variables are consistent with
extant literature (Johnston, 2001; May & Dunaway, 2000; Silverman &
Della-Giustina, 2001). It is interesting to note that one’s prior victimization
had a stronger effect on perceived risk than on actual emotional levels of
fear—that is, having experienced prior victimization was more strongly
related to perceived cognitive risk of crime than to actually experiencing
emotional fear of crime. Victimization also had a significant and negative
effect on neighborhood satisfaction (β = –.127, p < .001). The negative rela-

17

.091

–.117**

.252***

Victimization

*p < 0.05. **p < 0.01. ***p < 0.001.

Victimization
Incivility
Police presence
Social support
Collective efficacy
Neighborhood
satisfaction
Perceived risk
Preventive
measures
Gender
Race
Age
Family income
R2

Predictor
Variables

–.082**
–.227***
–.105**
.074

Incivility

.125

.213***
.229***

Police
Presence

.082

.152***
.243***

Social
Support

TABLE 5: Standardized Regression Coefficients in Model

.361***
.379

.135**
.472***

Collective
Efficacy

.164

.197***

–.127***
–.290***

Neighborhood
Satisfaction

.195

.163***
–.163***
.098***

–.190***

.165***
.162***

Perceived
Risk

.322

.131***

.173**
.439***

.114**

Preventive
Measures

.508

.234***
.072**

.526***

–.141***

.081*
.069**

Fear of
Crime

18

CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

tionship reflects the empirical precedents regarding the impact of victimization on lowering overall neighborhood satisfaction (Alvi et al., 2001).
Perceived Neighborhood Incivility
High levels of perceived neighborhood incivility were found to be associated with high levels of victimization and high police presence as anticipated. The standardized effect of perceived neighborhood incivility on
victimization was .252 (p < .001) and on police presence was .229 (p < .001).
The positive influence of neighborhood incivility on victimization and on
police presence is consistent with the literature on disadvantaged neighborhoods (Johnston, 2001; May & Dunaway, 2000; Rountree & Land, 1996;
Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000).
High levels of perceived neighborhood incivility were also found to negatively influence neighborhood satisfaction. The effect of perceived incivility
on neighborhood satisfaction was significant, with a standardized coefficient
of –.290 (p < .001). The negative association found here also supports existing findings on at-risk neighborhoods (Pain, 2000; Putnam, 2000; Sampson,
2001; Walklate, 2001). Conversely, high levels of neighborhood incivility
positively influenced both perceived risk of crime and fear of crime. The
effect of neighborhood incivility on perceived risk of crime was .162 (p <
.001) and on fear of crime was .069 (p < .01). The stronger effect of neighborhood incivility on residents’perceived risk of crime than on their actual levels
of fear of crime reflects prior work by LaGrange and colleagues (1992). The
path between neighborhood incivility and collective efficacy was nonsignificant at the .05 level.
Police Presence
High police presence in the neighborhood was found to have a positive
impact on levels of collective efficacy. Results showed that police presence
had a significant effect on collective efficacy, with a standardized weight of
.135 (p < .01). This positive association between factors, which depicts
mutual investment in the community by public authorities and local citizens,
is consistent with previous findings (Johnston, 2001; Rosenbaum, 1987).
Data from this study failed to support the hypotheses between police presence and both perceived risk and fear of crime.

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

19

Social Support
As hypothesized, high levels of social support networks were associated
with high collective efficacy and increased preventive and protective measures. The standardized effect of social support networks on collective efficacy was .472 (p < .001) and on preventive and protective measures was .173
(p < .01). The effects of social support networks are consistent with existing
findings in the literature related to both fear of crime and social capital
(Agnew, 1985; Onyx & Bullen, 2000; Putnam, 2000; Sampson, 2001;
Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999; Stevenson, 1998). In contrast, the
hypothesis that high levels of social networks were expected to negatively
influence fear of crime was not supported by the data from this study. There
was also no support for the hypothesized positive influence of high social
support networks on neighborhood satisfaction.
Collective Efficacy
High collective efficacy, as expected, had a significant and positive impact
on neighborhood satisfaction. The standardized structural path coefficient
was .197 (p < .001). This finding confirms earlier results indicating that
police-community partnerships and civic participation in local initiatives are
precursors for increased overall satisfaction and quality of life in the community (Putnam, 2000; Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001). Furthermore, collective efficacy also had a strong and positive effect on preventive and protective measures, with a standardized weight of .439 (p < .001). This finding
reflects earlier work on active citizenship, suggesting that residents adopt an
array of individual and collective measures to reduce their fear of crime
(Johnston, 2001; Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000). It is likely that residents who
are involved in collaborative measures within the neighborhood to reduce
crime also protect themselves and their homes with individual measures as
well.
Neighborhood Satisfaction
Neighborhood satisfaction was found to have a significant and negative
effect on both perceived risk of crime and emotional fear of crime. The standardized path coefficient for the former was –.190 (p < .001) and for the latter
was –.141 (p < .001). Previous findings suggest that the overall level of
neighborhood dissatisfaction is a strong predictor of fear of crime (Alvi et al.,

20

CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

2001; McCoy et al., 1996; Silverman & Della-Giustina, 2001). The findings
here reveal that neighborhood satisfaction had a stronger impact on perceived risk than on emotional levels of fear of crime. This relationship is
novel within the literature, as prior work assessing the effects of neighborhood satisfaction on fear of crime has not conceptually distinguished
between perceived risk and fear of crime.
Perceived Risk of Crime
Perceived risk of crime was found to have a significant and positive effect
on adopting preventive and protective measures and on fear of crime. The
standardized path coefficients were .131 (p < .001) and .526 (p < .001),
respectively. Both relationships are consistent with prior findings by Ferraro
(1995) that perceived risk is the strongest predictor of fear of crime and that
the higher one’s levels of perceived risk, the more likely one is to constrain
behavior to protect oneself from crime and victimization.
Preventive and Protective Measures
Contrary to the negative relationship initially hypothesized between protective measures and fear of crime, adopting preventive and protective measures actually had a significant and positive effect on fear of crime. Thus, carrying out increased measures to protect oneself was associated with higher
levels of fear of crime. The standardized structural coefficient had a value of
.234 (p < .001) and was the second strongest effect on fear of crime of all
those depicted by the model. Nonetheless, the cross-sectional nature of the
data used here limit our ability to causally interpret this finding, given the
absence of any measure of residents’ fear prior to implementing preventive
measures designed to lower their fear. This possibility for the lack of support
of our initial hypothesis will be further discussed in the final section.
Control Variables
Various sociodemographic controls were found to be correlates of fear of
crime in this study. Namely, women were significantly more likely than men
to have higher levels of perceived risk (β = .163, p < .001) and fear of crime
(β = .072, p < .01). Non-Whites had higher levels of perceived risk of crime
(β = –.163, p < .001), but there was no significant relationship found between
race and fear of crime. Non-Whites also perceived greater amounts of neighborhood incivility than Whites (β = –.082, p < .01). Older individuals were
less likely than younger people to be victimized (β = –.117, p < .01) and per-

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

21

ceived less incivility in the neighborhood than younger individuals (β = –
.227, p < .001). In contrast, older individuals had higher levels of perceived
risk of crime than their younger counterparts (β = .098, p < .001). There was
no significant difference between older and younger individuals in their levels of fear of crime. Regarding social support systems, older individuals had
more support networks than younger people (β = .243, p < .001), whereas
Whites had significantly more supportive networks than non-Whites (β =
.152, p < .001).
Finally, individuals from families with higher incomes tended to perceive
less neighborhood incivility (β = –.105, p < .01) than individuals from families with lower incomes. Conversely, higher incomes were positively associated with collective efficacy (β = .361, p < .001). The latter supports prior
findings indicating that financial capital facilitates the development of social
capital or, in this regard, the involvement of community residents in collective actions for overall neighborhood improvement (Coleman, 1988;
Putnam, 2000).

DISCUSSION
The model tested in this study aimed to link individual and social
interactional influences by measuring individuals’ perceptions as well as
their relationships with the surrounding community. Support was found here
for the findings by Ferraro (1995) and Roundtree and Land (1996) that perceived cognitive risk of crime and emotional risk of crime are indeed distinct
concepts. Additionally, including social networks, local institutions of social
control, neighborhood satisfaction and collective efficacy in the model
advances existing research on this topic because there is limited knowledge
to date on the effects of social capital concepts on perceived risk and fear of
crime. In an effort to further contribute to the development of social capital
theory as a conceptual framework for better understanding citizens’ levels of
fear of crime, several positive influences of social capital on lowering fear
can be identified.
First of all, neighborhood satisfaction had the strongest effect on perceived risk of crime of all predictors in the model. Regarding its impact on
fear of crime, it had the third strongest impact after perceived risk of crime
and preventive and protective measures. Citizens who were overall more satisfied with their surrounding neighborhood environment tended to both perceive less risk of crime as well as to have lower levels of emotional fear of
crime. This finding is particularly noteworthy because residents’ perceptions
of overall contentment with the surrounding milieu had a greater impact on

22

CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

perceived risk and on fear of crime than both the more objective measures of
neighborhood disorder (e.g., litter, vandalism, abandoned infrastructure,
graffiti, gangs, etc.) and the traditional indicators of social vulnerability (e.g.,
being female and being elderly). Nonetheless, in an effort to reduce residents’
fear of crime, neighborhood vigilance efforts, crime prevention programs
and public-safety campaigns generally tend to focus on eradicating the visible incivilities in the neighborhood as well as on decreasing residents’ likelihood of being victimized, instead of on enhancing residents’ levels of overall
satisfaction directly (Rosenbaum, 1987). With multiple studies demonstrating the strength of the variable of overall neighborhood satisfaction as a predictor of fear of crime, it may behoove local community associations and
police-neighborhood partnerships to begin to implement strategies that seek
to enhance neighborhood satisfaction, along with the more traditional efforts
employed to lower fear of crime.
The findings linking overall satisfaction to lower levels of fear of crime
are consistent with the propositions of social capital theory, which suggest
that residents who are more satisfied with their neighborhoods tend to display more interpersonal trust with neighbors, thus fearing less the likelihood
of themselves becoming victims of crime (Sampson, 2001). Similarly, the
positive relationship between collective efficacy and neighborhood satisfaction supports social capital theory as well, which proposes that individuals
who actively participate in efforts to enhance neighborhood well-being tend
to be more satisfied overall with their surrounding milieu (Portney & Berry,
1997; Putnam, 2000). In this study, the more neighborhood residents participated in Neighborhood Watch and community meetings, the more satisfied
citizens were, overall, with their surrounding environment.
Second, local institutions of social control, such as the police, can have a
motivating effect on residents to collectively work together to lower neighborhood crime rates and accompanying levels of fear. The indirect effect of
police presence in the neighborhood on lowering citizens’ perceived risk of
crime (–.005) and on lowering fear of crime (–.004), mediated through high
collective efficacy and high neighborhood satisfaction, is particularly promising for future collaboration between residents and law enforcement in combating neighborhood crime. Consistent with the literature on social capital,
neighborhoods with a diverse stock of institutional resources (e.g., police,
schools, churches, and service organizations) are more likely to successfully
enforce social norms of desired behavior and to provide citizens with opportunities to participate in local organizations on behalf of the collective neighborhood well-being (Sampson, 2001). One of the positive externalities of
high levels of collective efficacy and overall satisfaction, as seen above, is a

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

23

decrease in residents’ anxiety regarding crime and in the likelihood of
themselves becoming victims (Putnam, 2000; Sampson, 2001).
Third, contrary to the speculated negative relationship between preventive
and protective measures and fear of crime, adopting safety and security measures to protect oneself and one’s home was found to have a positive and significant effect on fear of crime. It was originally expected that adopting strategies to protect oneself and prevent crime would indeed lower one’s fear of
crime in the neighborhood. Interestingly though, compared to all of the standardized effects of the distinct predictor variables on fear of crime, preventive and protective measures—after perceived risk of crime—had the largest
structural path coefficient. The more citizens adopted specific measures to
protect themselves and their homes, the more likely they were to experience
high levels of fear of crime, not the reverse.
Two precedents from the fear of crime literature are worth mentioning
here to help elucidate this unanticipated finding. First, in a study exploring
the relationship between people’s degree of embeddedness in socioemotional networks and their level of fear of crime, Sacco (1993) discovered that
integration in dense networks of social support actually increased individuals’ anxiety about personal safety, instead of lowering such concern. He concluded that compared to people who lack kin and non-kin social support,
individuals who perceive high levels of socioemotional support from family
and friends may indeed worry more about crime in the surrounding environment as well as about the possibility of themselves, or their loved ones,
becoming victims. To date, research on the relationship between social support networks, one of the conceptual pillars of the social capital framework,
and fear of crime has generated contradictory evidence at best. Additional
studies exploring the effects of social networks on fear of crime may help
clarify the nature of the underlying relationship between these constructs.
A second empirical precedent that may help explain the unexpected positive association between adopting preventive and protective measures and
fear of crime can be found within the literature on the effectiveness of certain
crime vigilance tactics and public safety programs such as Neighborhood
Watch (Pain, 2000; Rosenbaum, 1987). Davis (1992) coined the term ecology of fear to describe the pattern of relations that has emerged during the
past few decades characterized by neighborhood watch schemes, private residences concealed from public view behind massive walls and fences, and
gated suburb communities, whose entrances come equipped with armed
security guards. Instead of lowering people’s fear of crime, the author purports that these approaches may generate increased feelings of anxiety, isolation, and exclusion in citizens. Rountree and Land (1996) also support this

24

CRIME & DELINQUENCY / MONTH XXXX

hypothesis, discovering that increased precautionary measures were actually
associated with higher levels of fear of crime.
Given the presence of paradoxical findings in the literature related to several adopting preventive and protective measures, it is speculated that the
nature of the recursive model used here may have limited our understanding
of the true relationship between preventive and protective measures and fear
of crime. In the absence of a nonrecursive model to evaluate the possible
reciprocal relationship between fear of crime and adopting preventive and
protective measures, the direction of causality remains questionable. In an
effort to assess the possible reciprocal effects between these two variables, an
additional path from fear of crime back to preventive and protective measures
was added in a second nonrecursive model. Although the path was nonsignificant here, future studies using a nonrecursive model will likely help to
answer an important question: Does fear of crime incite individuals to adopt
increased security measures to protect themselves from crime or does
employing these tactics to protect oneself from crime lead to increases (or
decreases) in levels of anxiety, or both?
These explanations, along with the findings, should be taken with caution,
considering the study’s limitations. First of all, although we have based the
temporal ordering of our model predictors on social capital theory and empirical precedents of fear of crime, caution should be used in inferring causation
from the results, given the cross-sectional nature of the data. For instance,
regarding the unanticipated finding between preventive and protective measures and fear of crime, the absence of any measure of residents’ fear prior to
implementing safety measures limits our ability to determine what residents’
preimplementation levels of fear were. As such, residents’ levels of fear of
crime may have been reduced on the home and personal safety measures used
here, yet their initial fear levels may have been much higher—a measure that
was not captured in these data. Future longitudinal analysis will help to clarify the relationship between adopting safety measures and fear of crime as
well as to address this common limitation of cross-sectional data.
Secondly, caution must also be taken in the interpretation of results
regarding the relationship between the sociodemographic correlates and fear
of crime because of the sample bias detected here. In this study, women were
more likely than men to have higher levels of perceived risk of crime and fear
of crime, whereas minorities were more likely than Whites to have higher
levels of perceived risk. Given that this sample somewhat overrepresents
both females and Whites, it is possible that the findings would have been different with a more representative sample. Future studies using samples that
are representative of the national population across key variables or that
weight nonrepresentative data and conduct multiple analyses to compare

Ferguson, Mindel / FEAR OF CRIME IN DALLAS

25

models will help determine the influence of social structural variables on
levels of both perceived risk and fear of crime.
Despite the study limitations, this study contributes to the extant literature
on social capital and fear of crime. By integrating the findings from this analysis with the macro, community-level predictors of fear of crime from the
existing literature, several common neighborhood characteristics emerge.
Generally, in neighborhoods with high perceived risk and fear of crime, residents tend to report that there are high levels of social problems, or visible
incivilities, and low levels of social cohesion. Similarly, both police presence
and victimization episodes, such as burglary, vandalism, interpersonal physical violence, threats, and sexual attacks, are more frequent. Residents in
neighborhoods characterized by high levels of fear of crime are also more
likely to perceive higher levels of overall community dissatisfaction as well
as to adopt security measures to feel safer and to protect themselves and their
property.
Drawing on empirical precedents from the social capital literature, it is
precisely in these neighborhoods where initiatives that seek to develop and
strengthen social capital can have an impact on both reducing crime rates as
well as on lowering people’s accompanying high levels of fear of themselves
becoming victims.
In contrast, the extant research reveals that communities with high social
capital tend to be more economically and socially developed than communities with low social capital. Communities rich in this social resource are also
more likely to be home to individuals who perceive a higher quality of community life and are more satisfied with their surrounding environment. Furthermore, high levels of trust and reciprocity exist among neighbors in communities with high social capital, and residents are more likely to volunteer in
local organizations and participate in collective-action strategies to solve
local problems. Finally, communities with high social capital tend to promote informal social norms of expected and desirable behavior, which often
replace the need for more formal measures, such as legal sanctions or repression by authority (Portney & Berry, 1997; Putnam, 2000; Swanson Ernst,
2001). Further research can be pivotal in providing new insight into how
social capital can be mobilized as a public-safety, community resource in atrisk, disadvantaged neighborhoods plagued with high crime rates.

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