Crime and community: Fear or trust?

Walklate, S.

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Walklate, S. (1998). Crime and community: Fear or trust? The British Journal of Sociology, 49(4), 550–569.

community , fear of crime , ontological security , trust

The 'fear of crime' has been at the centre of political and policy debate for some time. The purpose of this paper is to examine critically the continued relevance of that debate in the light of findings from an in-depth two and a half year research project. The findings from that project suggest that the relation people have with crime, criminal victimization, and the fear of crime is mediated by the relevance of their relationship with their local community and their structural position within that community. Understanding the nature of these relationships suggests the question of trust is of greater value in highlighting who is and who is not afraid of crime.

Main finding
The author finds that despite evidence of criminal activity, residents of Oldtown do not express a fear of crime, but reflect a trusting sense of community and security that seems well-defended against outsiders. Bankhill residents, on the other hand, feel threatened by crime and do not find trust beyond personal relationships. Older residents express a sense of despair at the loss of a community, and young residents express trouble balancing a desire for social capital with an avoidance of delinquent behavior. These findings suggest that there is more to the shallow questions asked in surveys on perception of crime, and that more detailed analysis could show more complicated relationships between community and crime.

Description of method used in the article
A survey of 596 residents was conducted, which reflects both neighborhoods studied. Focus group members were chosen from the survey respondents. These focus groups were made up of 21 Oldtown residents and 29 residents of Bankhill, including newcomers, long term residents, older residents, females, and males, and children. Separate focus groups were held for police managers and police officers.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Interviews Survey
Physical types
Geographic locations