Keeping trouble at a safe distance

Authors Remco Spithoven
Publication date 2017
Research groups Public health and public safety
Type Doctoral Thesis


‘The fear of crime’ is “upon everybody’s tongue” nowadays (Farrall & Gadd 2004:1). The concept is widely accepted as social problem across the globe (Gray, Jackson & Farrall 2008, Garland 2001) as it is held to impinge ‘(…) upon the well-being of a large proportion of the population’ (Farralll et al. 1997:658). But do we actually have a valid picture of a genuine ‘social problem of striking dimensions’ (Ditton 1999:83)? Critical voices say we don’t. ‘The fear of crime’ - as we generally know it - is seen by them as ‘(…) a product of the way it has been researched rather than the way it is’ (Farrall et al. 1997:658). And still, 45 years after the start of research, ‘surprisingly little can be said conclusively about the fear of crime‘ (Ditton & Farrall 2000:xxi). This research contributes to a growing body of knowledge - from especially the last fifteen years - that treats ‘the fear of crime’ as ‘(…) a complex allocation of interacting feelings, perceptions, emotions, values and judgments on the personal as well as the societal level’ (Pleysier 2010:43). One often replicated and paradoxical observation catches the eye: citizens perceive a growing threat of crime to their society, but consequently perceive a low risk that they themselves will fall victim of crime. Taking a social psychological approach (e.g. see Farrall et al. 2000; Jackson 2008), we will search for suitable explanations for this paradoxical observation in the fear of crime’s research tradition. The aim of this research is ‘to integrate social psychological concepts related to the individual’s identity and evaluation of his position in an increasingly complex society, to enhance our understanding of the fear of crime concept’ (Pleysier & Cops 2016:3).

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Public health and public safety