Abstract

Research on fear of victimization continues to overlook the proximate causes of fear, relying instead on tacit and untested assumptions about those causes. For example, it is widely accepted that Americans are most afraid of violent or personal crimes, as if the perceived seriousness of offenses were the only determinant of fear. Were that true, fear would almost certainly be immutable (how does one reduce the perceived seriousness of crimes?). Data from a 1981 mail survey of Seattle residents indicate that, among types of offenses, fear of victimization is a multiplicative function of perceived risk and perceived seriousness, these two factors carry virtually identical weight (i.e., they may precisely offset each other), and fear is not necessarily highest for violent crimes.

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