Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2015 Contents SUNDAY 3rd may, 2015 -- UWI TODAY 7
Is it idealistic to think of a society in which we have no fear
of criminal victimization? Do we have a right to demand
safety for our family and neighbours or are we far removed
from the ideals enshrined in Article 3 of e Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (Everyone has the right to life,
liberty and security of person)?
e expansion of the security industry, emergence
of gated communities, increased budgetary allocation
to security and crime, discourses in parliament and the
media, send a clear signal, that crime is a major concern
in our society. Over the last four years the annual average
budget allocation to the Ministry of National Security was
e ndings of a recent survey conducted by the ANSA
McAL Psychological Research Centre showed that over
50% of citizens in Trinidad saw crime as a major national
problem. Preliminary results from an ongoing 2015 Crime
Victimisation and Fear of Crime Survey funded by the T&T
Research Development Impact (RDI) Fund have shown
that 44% of respondents were afraid of being victims of
crimes. It suggests that for every 100,000 persons within
the adult population of Trinidad, about 44,000 persons are
fearful of being criminally victimised. is lecture attempts
to explores possibleilities of explanations o ning these
UNDERSTANDING FEAR OF CRIME
Fear is usually considered a a negative emotion
associated with high physiological arousal, creating a ight
or ght response. is emotion is functional since we are
biologically wired to respond to danger cues as a means to
protect ourselves and members of our group. Fear of crime
is one of these functional responses. A classic de nition
is that fear of crime is an emotional response of dread
or anxiety to crime or symbols that a person associates
with crime (Ferraro, 1995). Several factors may help us to
understand our fear of crime levels. Among these, Tthe
actual crime rates and the perceived crime rates are two
extremely important factors that a ect fear levels. Crime
rates that are absolutely or relatively high send a signal to
citizens that those in authority may not have control over
the crime situation.
It seems obvious that perception of and con dence
in the police are other factors. Higher con dence in the
police is associated with lower fear levels. However, citizens'
con dence is also bolstered when the criminal justice system
e ciently and expeditiously responds to criminal matters.
In addition, Nneighbourhood disorders, including quality
of life in the community, levels of poverty, orderliness of
surroundings, and other measures of community civility
are associated with fear levels. An interesting observation
is that Tthe power of rumour in close-knit communities
informs residents of criminal violations and they o en
develops protective responses via informal conversations.
Studies have shown that persons in rural areas are more
likely to be fearful than those in urban areas, in anticipation
of being a victim of crime. However, there are no consistent
ndings in the literature on the association between the rural
and urban dichotomy and fear levels. Among other factors
associated with fear of crime is the severity. Crimes di er in
their severity and consequences, such as the consequences
of murder against burglary. Another is person and group
vulnerability: some groups and persons are more vulnerable
than others, gender/age/shi workers. Persons who have
been victimized or are indirect victims of crime, that is
their relative or friend has been a victim, are more likely
to be afraid.
PARADOXES OF FEAR
A number of fear-of-crime paradoxes require
acknowledgment. ese paradoxes suggest that groups
that are least likely to be victimized are more likely to be
fearful. To appreciate them we need to assess o cial police
data and crime victimization survey data, where available.
e Gender Paradox suggests that besides sexual
assault and domestic violence, females are less likely to
be victims of crime but are more likely to be fearful of
victimization than males.
e Age Paradox suggests that older persons are more
likely to be afraid than younger persons but less likely to be
victims of crime.
e Ethnic Paradox suggests that certain ethnic groups
may be less likely to be victims but more afraid.
Data from the UNDP 2012 Victimization Survey
suggest that older persons are less likely to be victims of
crimes than younger persons; males were more likely to be
victims than females and persons of African descent more
likely to be victims than other ethnic groups. Some of these
ndings are supported by o cial crime statistics, where
available, from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
However, conversely, the fear of crime data from our 2015
RDI study on Fear of Crime suggest that females are more
likely to be afraid than males for all crimes. Similarly for
all crimes Indo-Trinidadians were more likely to be fearful
than Afro-Trinidadians or Mixed persons. erefore,
the relationship between fear of crime and gender is not
consistent with a victimization trend but consistent with the
literature: females having higher fear levels (Chadee, 2003;
Chadee & Ng Ying, 2013). e relationship between fear of
crime and age is consistent with the victimization trend but
not consistent with the literature's age paradox neither with
the 2015 RDI ndings as well as Chadee and Ditton, 2003.
e relationship between fear of crime and ethnicity is not
consistent with the victimization trend. Indo-Trinidadians
are more likely to be fearful but are less likely to be victims
(Chadee, 2003; Chadee & Ng Ying, 2013).
e literature suggests that a major factor in uencing
fear of crime is o cial crime rates. e o cial crime rates
in 2013 for some crimes against person and property per
100,000 were 30.4 incidents for murder, 40.5 incidents
for wounding and shooting, 15.9 incidents for rape, 221.3
incidents for robbery, 221.8 incidents for burglary and
break-in. However, the fear of crime rates per 100,000 as
approximated from the RDI Fear Survey's preliminary data
far exceed the o cial victimization rates. For example, while
the crime rate per 100,000 for murder is 30.4, the fear of
crime for murder rate per 100,000 is 38,757.
e fear of crime rate per 100,000 for break-ins is
49,703, for robbery is 46,551, and wounding and shooting
43,376. As a note, o cial crime rates may not be re ective
of actual victimization rates. Further, the di erence in
years between the survey (2015) and the most updated
o cial statistics (2013) is not an explanatory factor in
understanding the actual crime-fear paradox.
Among the other explanations of fear of crime is our
estimation of the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime.
e literature has consistently shown a relationship between
our risk assessment and fear of crime levels. e higher
our estimation of becoming a victim of crime the more
likely we are to be fearful. However, our naïve probabilistic
evaluation of risk as determined by objective factors (eg,
o cial statistics) and subjective factors (eg, psychological
and social factors) may lead to distorted conclusions of our
own vulnerability of criminal victimization. Cognitively,
our assessment of personal victimization is more likely to
be in uenced by the possibility of the event happening to us
rather than the statistical probability. Possibilities are quite
o en illusory. Consider the possibility of winning a lottery
and then the probability of winning a lottery. e former
may motivate us to purchase a ticket while if the latter is
seriously considered we may not purchase the ticket.
Operating on possibilities has a self-ful lling prophecy
e ect since excessive protective behaviour motivated by
fear may direct us away from potential danger. However,
our behaviour may also become exclusive to the interaction
within speci c spaces and groups. Such exclusiveness may
break down important community interactionbonds needed
to create the necessary social solidarity to bond groups.
Our ongoing research on fear of crime focuses on a
number of research areas which attempts to understand
the dynamics of fear of crime and its idiosyncrasies within
the Caribbean context. Among the research interests are
social psychological factors including an understanding of
the relationship between fear of crime and personality, time
perspective, altruistic fear, vulnerability, level of intolerance,
anxiety and neighbourhood cohesiveness.
Fear of crime is a major issue in contemporary society
and "perceptions are the solid facts of reality." We construct
our social world based on our perceptions. e hope is that
the kind of research we are currently doing will be useful in
informing policy and interventions in the reduction of fear
and to understand how our perceptions of reality in uence
our decision-making processes.
e Fear of
BY DEREK CHADEE
is is a summary of some of the points made at Professor Derek Chadee's Professorial Inaugural Lecture held on March 26, 2015
at the Learning Resource Centre at e UWI, St. Augustine campus.
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