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Fear of Crime in Canada

Lay Person's Guide to the Criminal Prosecution Process on CanLaw

Taking the Pulse of a Nation

Publication of the Department of Justice Canada -
Note: While this report is dated, most of it remains valid

A report based on a review of literature, consultations with academics and community leaders and a sample of more than 1,000 newspaper articles
Table of Contents

For some time now, The Church Council on Justice and Corrections has been interested in the issue of fear of crime in this country. We are concerned for Canadians who are afraid either because of crime or their perceptions of crime. As well, we have been monitoring the media reporting and academic study of this important phenomenon. As a national organization whose criminal justice and church networks reach into communities, we were convinced that Canada is a relatively safe country in which to live but that fear of crime, with its many faces, still is exerting a significant force on the lives of too many Canadians. Along with other organizations and individuals, we wondered about the effect of those fears on the quality of life in Canada, on the increasing demands for tougher, costlier, punitive responses to crime and perhaps on the incidence of crime itself.

It became clear in discussions with the Department of Justice that fear of crime is indeed a prominent national issue and that there is an inadequate knowledge base about the subject. The Department of Justice agreed to fund a project that would attempt to gather together an accessible, single source of knowledge about fear of crime which, hopefully, would then be available to governments as well as communities and interested agencies; that knowledge base would identify the leading themes and critical an alyses, what is known about fear of crime, precisely what are the nature, causes and impact of those fears and what has been tried or is being recommended by way of measures taken by individuals or more formal programs to respond to those fears. Of great importance was the need to plunge into the murky waters of the public's perception about crime, and how those perceptions intersect with the public's fears. Clearly, fear of crime was emerging as a separate but related issue to crime itself, with the na ture of that relationship requiring further study.

This research project was first designed to combine a review of relevant literature and a consultation with leading fear of crime "experts" in criminology and sociology. The project met those goals, but initial research pushed the Church Council further. Pivotal to any understanding of public fear of crime are demographic factors such as gender, race, age and sexual orientation. Therefore, the Church Council added several more academics and community leaders to the consultation.

Here are the major components of our fear of crime research study:

(i) Review of Literature

As extensive as the report's bibliography is, it is still far from complete. The fear of crime literature is voluminous, particularly in the United States, due no doubt to our neighbour's size but also to the years and extent to which crime and fear of crime have preoccupied that country as a social malaise. Priority is given in the report to Canadian literature. However, the criminologists and sociologists consulted also provided American and other foreign references of foundational or ground-breaking contributions to present knowledge about fear of crime. Emphasis was placed on more current literature from the past ten years.

Noteworthy in this more recent body of writing is the growing feminist critique of traditional approaches to criminology which had tended to identify women as a fear group typical of those whose fears were out of proportion to actual risk of victimization. Elizabeth Stanko and Liz Kelly, among others, have positioned women's fears within the continuum of violence so many experience in private and public places, by those they know or by strangers or distant acquaintances. So this significant contribution to the study of fear of crime is acknowledged, alongside the pioneering work in Canada of Ottawa's Linda MacLeod who has done numerous community workshops dialoguing with urban and rural women, including immigrants, many who are victims of abuse or other forms of violence. These women are fearful because of their experiences and/or their perceptions as women today.

This literature review is not a professional social sciences review, with annotated bibliography or footnotes and references. That type of review is beyond the scope of the project and would be counterproductive to our decision to write the report in a "popular or journalistic" style that would appeal to a much broader audience.

(ii) Consultation with Academics and Community Leaders

The Church Council consulted the following academic experts in the initial phase of the research:
Vincent Sacco, sociology, Queens University, Kingston
Anthony Doob, criminology, University of Toronto, Toronto
Rick Linden, sociology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg
Julian Roberts, criminology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa
Jean-Paul Brodeur, criminology, Universite de Montreal, Montreal

Those consultations, along with the literature review, led to the following individuals being interviewed as well:
Holly Johnson, Program Manager, Violence Against Women Survey, Statistics Canada
Barry Thomas and Sgt. Keith Wiltshire, Canadian Centre for Police-Race Relations
Carol Holland, Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Bias Crime Unit

(iii) Sample of Newspaper and Magazine Articles

The Church Council relied on its own collection of over one thousand newspaper and magazine articles on fear of crime (almost all since 1992) to personalize and integrate this study within the lives of Canadians. Quotes reprinted at the introduction to several sections are meant to provide readers with a contemporary and human context for this probe of fear of crime in Canada.

Introduction: An Overview

Fear of crime in Canada is a complex, serious, somewhat misleading and, to a large extent, remarkably manageable phenomenon. This finding is not intended to dismiss or minimize the impact of violence and crime on Canadians. Rather, it includes the message that there is much that individuals, communities and governments can do through prevention, education and community rebuilding to assist everyone to lead safer, fuller and less fearful lives.


Crime causes fear, doesn't it? That equation seemed self-evident, until social scientists and pollsters began noticing high amounts of "fear of crime" in people who were neither victims of crime nor at high risk of victimization. That led some to separate crime and fear of crime as two different and not necessarily related issues. A reaction to that position swung the pendulum back to research that recognized both the distinctness of fear of crime but its ties to crime. Still others were observing that people with general or more diffused fears withdrew in isolation from community, abandoning neighbourhoods, which in itself contributed to more criminal behaviour. So, in quite another way, fear is also contributing to crime!

"Public fear of crime" is a misnomer, implying, as Vince Sacco of Queens University in Kingston has said, that "the burden of fear falls equally on the shoulders of all Canadians". More accurate is the qualifier that some members of the public are afraid some of the time in certain situations and that those fears are prevalent in particular groups such as women, victims of particular types of crime, urban residents and among those who perceive their neighbourhoods as having higher or escalating crime rates.

Fear of crime is both public and private, visible and hidden.

Fear of crime has become a catch-all phrase to lump together radically different emotions, including no doubt fear but also anger, grief, lamentation and a pervading sense of powerlessness nurtured by frustration and experiences of fundamental inequality by those in various sectors of society.

Even within the single emotion of fear, a range exists extending on a scale from the bottom end of worry, unease or anxiety all the way to people sensing a terror or panic because of profound vulnerability all the time.

As well, fear of crime has become a sweeping category to embrace not only fears related to risk of victimization from criminal activity but far more amorphous fears influenced, in Linda MacLeod's words, by "insecurities, unfairness, the general nastiness of life, due in part to the undervaluing of women, children and the elderly, inequities these groups endure, the breakdown of traditional communities, unemployment, health concerns and neighbourhood deterioration". Disorder and incivility need to be taken into account in any treatment of fear of crime.

Fear of crime can be more accurately fear of a specific criminal, or category of criminal. "Fear of crime" is a depoliticized term, according to Tony Doob from the University of Toronto's criminology department. When used as a neutral phrase, it masks the real fears and opinions Canadians may have about young offenders, sex offenders and those from other races.

Fear of crime is the axis where perception and reality meet; schools of criminology and crime prevention programs are founded on whether one believes that the fears are based on actual crime rates and real risk of victimization or are paranoic perceptions so out of touch with the facts that the perceptions should be discounted or changed. Do we fight crime or do we fight perceptions, or is it a bit of both?


Fear of crime has emerged as a serious social concern in this country.

For the first time in our history, Canadians witnessed an election campaign (1993) where crime and fear of crime competed with the economy as dominant themes. There has been a dramatic increase in media coverage and especially on radio and television open-line shows, rampant usually in the wake of any high profile incident.

Results from the 1993 General Social Survey confirmed past data that one in four Canadians(25 per cent) felt "somewhat or very unsafe" walking alone in their neighbourhoods after dark. For women, this was true for 42 per cent. Almost two of every five Canadians have changed activities or avoided certain places to protect themselves or their property from crime.

The quality of life is certain to be diminished if people's activities are curtailed or if they feel they must barricade themselves in their homes because of their fear of crime.

Fear of crime accents the already-existing cleavages in society, such as race, culture, youth and gender. Hate crimes are a source of fear for members of some ethnocultural groups or racial minorities. Social tension escalates along ethnic and racial lines.

Meanwhile, fear of crime gets politicized amidst competing interest groups and their agendas. Fear-mongering and political posturing needlessly exacerbate people's fears.

People's insecurities and fears also undermine support for sentencing alternatives. Heightened, perceived insecurity results in communities monitoring the unwanted offenders more closely rather than placing them in community sanctions or service programs.


The public, political and media preoccupation with fear of crime begs the question whether the glass is half empty or half full. As serious as crime and fear of crime are for many, specific groups, fully 86 per cent of Canadians claim to be " very or somewhat satisfied" with their general level of safety (1993 General Social Survey). That finding gets lost in the hullabaloo around crime and fears.

Traditionally, the elderly were identified as a high fear group whose perceptions did not match their real risk of being a victim of crime. However, there is new evidence to suggest that inadequate measures of fear within this group led to overly sweeping conclusions; seniors answered hypothetical questions on their fears about walking in their neighbourhood at night. Yes, they would be afraid but they also seldom went out for a walk at night, for reasons a lot more to do with health or lifestyle rather than fear of crime. Better designed questions based on real life habits have determined seniors are afraid in certain situations some of the time, e.g. when they have money on them to go shopping for groceries.

Typically, the media gets blamed as the villains for exacerbating public fears. Their influence is undeniable, but far from overriding. The media may heighten fears in their report of local crime particularly and also set much of the context and agenda for this issue. Yet quite influential as well are the informal circles in which people move around and tell their stories, our interpersonal networks, where we observe and weigh what is happening in the neighbourhood.

Some commentaries refer to fears only in the negative, as if the goal of crime prevention would be to eliminate them all. Yet, there are positive features to fear as well, if they make someone more prudent by taking precautions which keep them safe. There may well be exaggerated or groundless fear but there are also fears that help people to assess accurately one's risk and then live accordingly.


Modern social conditions may make violence and danger a permanent fixture on the landscape but there is still much that is manageable about fear of crime. What is important is how Canadians negotiate the daily threat and experience of danger.

Many people have made major and minor adjustments to their daily routine and habits, successfully preventing crime or avoiding risk.

There are numerous crime prevention programs that are intended to change the physical or social environment, in many cases reducing anxiety by improving public and private safety. Citizens have access to opportunities to participate directly in block clubs, safe escort services, Operation Identification and self defence courses, to name but a few.

Community policing continues to evolve in the country. In its best expression, community policing is intended to reduce people's fears through increased contact with the police and in its impact on reducing disorders and incivilities in a neighbourhood. Foot patrols by police officers ease general feelings of insecurities more than concrete fears of crime.

Fear of crime is overcome through the systematic encouragement of neighbourhood building where residents feel more responsibility and control over what happens in the area. This becomes possible in the weaving of solidarity networks and promoting a self-help mood within communities. Significantly, communities have the opportunity to map their assets as well as their needs in this campaign to alleviate fear of crime. There are talents and productive skills among a wide range of organizations and individuals in the community.

Local communities can be assisted to gather detailed information regarding the levels and social distribution of fear. Many risks can be reduced or managed. Community members will know what measures and actions can help to make them feel safer. In some instances, trained community leaders can assist people to reach a certain comfort level with respect to fears which linger.

There is the prospect of groups that fear one another coming together to overcome stereotypes and labels - the elderly and young people, men and women, people from different cultures or races. This is the worthy task of rebuilding and re-inventing community.

Fear of Crime: The Theories and some Distinctions

"Fear of crime has far greater potential to wreck the city than crime itself."
John Barber
Globe and Mail writer
after the Just Desserts killing

"You can't underestimate the importance of crime, and there is definitely rising fear. There is a real perception that we are not strict enough on our criminals."
Janet Brown
Environics Research Group
Aug. 30, 1993

"Professionally, and as a mother of two boys, the level of criminal behaviour really scares the heck out of me."
Yvonne Latta
Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, Ontario

"There are people in houses and apartments inconvenienced by these crimes and made to live in fear."

Tim Murphy
Ontario Liberal, Provincial Legislature

(i) Definitions and Some Distinctions

What precisely do we mean by the word, "fear", in the phrase, "fear of crime"?

James Garofalo defined fear of crime as an "emotional reaction characterized by a sense of danger and anxiety produced by the threat of physical harm... elicited by perceived cues in the environment that relate to some aspect of crime". (1981) Others, though, describe it as more diffuse than a fear of some specific danger in one's immediate environment; in other words, fear of crime is caught up in a wider concept of quality of life.

There are many references in the literature and public commentary to rational as opposed to irrational fear, or reasonable and unreasonable fears. Emotions and reason are juxtaposed, hinting that fear of crime includes but goes beyond the emotional response to some immediate threat. Vince Sacco explains: "Researchers, however, do not usually have access to people in the context of fear-provoking situations. For this reason, in surveys such as the 1993 General Social Survey or the Violence Against Women Survey, fear is understood as a perception or an attitude rather than as an emotional reaction to imminent danger. Most commonly, respondents to surveys are asked about anticipated fear or worry concerning situations in which they might or do find themselves." So the phrase, "fear of crime", is indeed a sweeping description, one that embraces emotions, attitudes, a state of being and perceptions.

As well, fear of crime sometimes is confused with concern about crime. As early as 1971, Furstenberg was writing in the United States distinguishing between fear of crime and concern with crime. Fear was on the affective level - "I am worried about my safety" - while concern with crime was more on the cognitive level - "I have a general anxiety that crime is threatening". As an illustration of the difference, Jean-Paul Brodeur from the Universite de Montreal offered the example of the Quebec resident who might be concerned about famine in the Third World but would not fear going hungry himself.

On many different levels, the semantics of this issue must be addressed.

Here are some other important distinctions:

Concrete and Formless Fear
Fear of crime is either concrete, related to imminent danger from a specific crime, or it is formless, related to fear of being a victim of a criminal act although the nature of the crime is not precise. (Figgie Report, America Afraid, 1980) A member of the gay, lesbian or bisexual community may have a concrete fear of a gay-bashing crime. A woman may have a concrete fear of violent sexual assault. But an elderly person might be alone at home bothered by formless or abstract fears.

Formless fears are more widespread. Concrete fears tend to touch a person in a way more immediate and threatening. Both are demoralizing for the individual. Formless or diffused fears can induce pessimism and contribute to the decay of a neighbourhood, damaging quality of life.

These diffuse fears are significant challenges for communities and any crime prevention program. Many diffuse fears are still very much tied to crime while others are related to behaviour that is not criminal such as loitering or the decay of neighbourhoods.

Vince Sacco questions the relevance of these distinctions for the person who is actually afraid. They may be more helpful for crime prevention programmers and policy makers who need to identify the source of those fears to design appropriate responses.

Feelings of Insecurity
Some social scientists prefer this term to fear of crime because the phrase is intended to take in not only crime but the disorders, incivilities and a wide range of feelings more broadly related to this topic. Jean-Paul Brodeur has observed that asking people about fear of crime is like a leading question from a lawyer, already framing the way someone will answer. Asking someone about their feelings of insecurity is more neutral and gets better results, he said. Fear of crime is often literally translated "la peur du crime" in French but Brodeur prefers to use "les sentiments d'insecurite."

Pleasurable Fear
Anyone who likes horror movies knows that a strong dose of fear is also an agreeable sensation, quite distinct from the repulsive sensations usually associated with fear of crime. Yet, pleasurable fear has an indirect relevance to the subject at hand. Jean-Paul Brodeur notes that people can be disgusted by the crimes that a Paul Bernardo or O.J. Simpson are accused of committing yet some of the same people are also titillated by the details: "groupies" flock to the trials; the information highway on computers cranks out every lurid detail of the cases to an insatiable audience. There is much ambiguity about this violence that offends but seduces.

Moral Panic
Ken Hatt, a criminology professor at Carleton University, describes a moral panic as an escalating cycle of fear that is somewhat self-reproducing and exceeds the evidence for the concern which is expressed.

A classic study of moral panic based on a supposed crime wave in Newfoundland determined that the fear and concern about violence were more in the mind of certain interest groups and the media.

Altruistic Fear
During a CBC Radio commentary, Ron Melchers, criminology professor at University of Ottawa, recalled what it is like climbing the stairs at night to kiss his children after watching the late-evening television news. The world seems a frightful place, especially for those he loves. Altruistic fear is fear that those we love will be victims of crime - our partners, children, parents, friends. For example, a parent may fear for a teen-aged child working an evening shift at a fast food chain.

Altruistic fear has not received much specific attention in the literature or in surveys. Yet it seems reasonable to conclude that this fear would impact significantly on our perceptions and the messages we communicate to our loved ones, for example to our children about how safe we tell them their world really is.

(ii) The Different Theories

Why do we fear?

People who are afraid of crime fear fundamentally for their own safety and that of their loved ones as well as the security of their property.

Without question, this fear is a real phenomenon in Canada. What is far less apparent is the extent of its grip on Canadians and what lies behind those fears.

Rick Linden summarizes three models to explain fear of crime:

Victimization Model:
High levels of crime lead to a high number of victims which results in a high level of fear in anticipation of being victimized. Crime causes fear.

Social Control Model:
The deterioration of social control, or the perception that this has occurred, is the source of fear, more than the objective risk of victimization. Eventually, this fear will cause more crime.

Vulnerability Model:
There are personal characteristics that contribute to people's fear;
some sense they are physically vulnerable in being unable to resist an attack or socially vulnerable because they are exposed to the threat of victimization and will suffer serious social and economic consequences.

Direct or vicarious experience with crime, particulary serious crime, is a common cause of fear. We fear either because we have been victimized or because we are aware we could be victims. "It happened to them. It could happen to me", some conclude. That person may well feel at greater risk and be anxious about their safety.

In fact, that was confirmed for the most part in the most recent national survey. Victims of sexual assault and victims of robbery and break and enter were most likely to express feelings of fear, at levels higher than the national average (1993 General Social Survey). Forty-six per cent of victims of sexual assault felt "very or somewhat unsafe" when walking alone after dark; 33 per cent of robbery victims and 32 per cent of break and enter victims felt the same way (the national average was about 25 per cent). But, for many other types of crime, prior victimization appeared to have little or no impact on current fears.

Social Control:
James Wilson and George Kelling wrote the now famous Broken Window Parable that best illustrates this fear of crime theory; a broken window in a deserted house is noticed by neighbours, initiating a long chain of events - more windows are broken and the house is boarded up, graffiti appears, garbage collects, people stop walking by the house at night, children are told to stay away, people feel less secure, police patrols increase, people feel the neighbourhood is less secure than before, people stay off the street at night, the crime rate begins to rise.

Jean-Paul Brodeur summarized the process this way:
1. Disorder and petty crime are chiefly responsible for the genesis and development of an acute feeling of insecurity in a neighbourhood.

2. When that feeling is sufficiently acute, a feeling of insecurity paralyses and disorganizes the inhabitants of a neighbourhood and determines the breakdown of informal controls, e.g. family control.

3. When informal controls that govern behaviour break down and the police carry the entire weight of social control, they are powerless to control disorder, petty offending and major crime.

4. Serious offenders therefore have free reign and the neighbourhood undergoing this process of degradation gradually loses its most viable elements.

5. At the end of the process, we find an area inhibited by a passive population that is terrified and exploited by those who practise their criminal activities with total impunity.

Rick Linden has listed the "correlates of fear" for this model. They are:
the physical factors - deterioration and signs of physical incivility.
the environmental factors - building size, height, accessibility, surveillance etc.
the social factors - perceived social mix, social cohesion, sense of community, lifestyle, lack of control over the environment, isolation, signs of incivility or social disorder.

There are particular demographic characteristics that are associated with fear of crime. Study after study has identified the primary fear groups to be women, the elderly, and young men in urban "hot spots", particularly poorer, young men from minority groups. More recent research has identified members of the gay, lesbian and bisexual community to be particularly vulnerable. Unquestionably, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, education, and employment all contribute to whether or not someone is vulnerable and therefore fearful. A combination of factors, found for example in an immigrant woman of colour, compounds those fears.

Elizabeth Stanko summarized research into the fear about criminal victimization this way:

"Police, government policy-makers and citizens alike conceptualize fear of crime as associated with individual citizens' concerns about being outside, alone and potentially vulnerable to personal and harmful confrontation from criminal violence. As such, fear of crime affects the lives of both women and men: it is characterized as a feeling involving a diffuse sense of anxiety or unsafeness when one is alone, particularly when one is alone and walking on the street after dark, and which may affect a person's lifestyle choices and mobility."

Two distinct ways of looking at fear of crime appear to have emerged as we listen to victims and to society at large. Certainly, there is fear of the violence inherent in many criminal acts. But there also is the study of fear of crime as a window into an expression of social malaise, including violence but linked to economic and social problems that have grown out of control.

Fear of crime is measured mostly through surveys and polls. The appendix to this report contains a chapter on issues related to how fear of crime is measured, including a section on different types of surveys and the questions which get asked.

Focus groups and the types of community workshops done by Linda MacLeod and others permit people to tell their stories around fear. Those stories do not lend themselves to the neat categories of data preferred by most researchers but they are the flesh and bones, soul and spirit, to the skeleton of statistics. The fear dwells in the stories, not in the statistics, and it is in the stories that it can actually be addressed.

So Are Canadians Afraid? The Statistics , The Stories and The Consequences
This section will consider the data from the most recent surveys as well as attempt to describe the many faces of fear and its consequences in the lives of Canadians.

The discussion on fear of crime in Canada is fraught with landmines, especially explosive in the use and mis-use of statistics. Vince Sacco reported in the most recent Juristat that 86 per cent of Canadians are "very or somewhat satisfied" with their general level of safety. On the one hand, that might be reassuring to the majority of Canadians and help put into perspective the occasional heightened level of fear which typically follows high profile, violent incidents. On the other hand, the 86 per cent figure ignores many significant problems; actually almost half of that group - 46 per cent of Canadians - are only "somewhat" satisfied with their general level of safety, leaving an ongoing challenge for community leaders and government policy makers in the country. The 86 per cent figure also conceals much higher proportions of fear in segments of the population such as women in general and poorer income, urban residents, including some from minority groups.

Nevertheless, the 86 per cent figure is a good perspective to remember as this report now puts fear of crime in Canada under the microscope, magnifying its reality, meaning and consequences for a better understanding of the phenomenon while not wanting to overstate its presence.

(i) What the surveys tell us

Here are some highlights from the 1993 General Social Survey and the 1993 Violence Against Women Survey:

  • one in four Canadians said they felt "somewhat" or "very unsafe" walking alone in their
    neighbourhoods after dark.

  • women were more than four times as likely as men to say that they do or would feel "somewhat unsafe" or "very unsafe" walking alone in their area after dark, and about three times as likely to say they are "very worried" or "somewhat worried" when home alone in the evening or during the night.

  • there is conflicting evidence about the elderly and their fears. There is little indication that fear increases with age, as illustrated when older Canadians are asked questions which are more relevant to their everyday lives, such as being alone at home in the evening or assessing their general safety from crime. While 27 per cent of those aged 15 to 24 stated that they are "worried" when home alone in the evening, 23 per cent of older Canadians felt the same worry. But persons aged 65 and over were almost twice as likely to indicate feeling "unsafe" when walking alone in their area after dark.

  • there was a small but measurable increase in the level of fear of criminal victimization compared to 1988, reflected in respondents' levels of apprehension while walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night. But Canadians were not at a higher risk of being a victim of crime than they were five years earlier, based on individual and household victimization rates.

  • victims of more serious crimes had levels of fear higher than the national average. Fear of walking alone in their area after dark was highest among victims of sexual assault (46 per cent), followed by robbery (33 per cent), break and enter (32 per cent) and vandalism (26 per cent).

  • Canadians take numerous precautionary measures to protect themselves or their property from crime. Thirty eight per cent said they changed their activities or avoided certain places, 32 per cent installed new locks, 15 per cent installed burglar alarms, 12 per cent obtained a dog, 10 per cent took a self-defence course, nine per cent changed their phone number and two per cent obtained a gun.

  • regarding precautionary measures women take for their personal safety: 67 per cent of women lock their car doors while driving alone, 60 per cent of women who drive check the back seat for intruders before getting in, 31 per cent try to avoid walking past teen-aged boys or young men, 17 per cent of Canadian women always or usually carry something to defend themselves or to alert other people, eleven per cent have taken a self-defence course.

  • women who had experienced violent victimization were more likely to state they always take these protective measures.

Extensive analysis of the surveys by researchers begin to put a face on people's fears. Victimization rates which influence those fears vary according to the victims' gender, age, geographical location, marital status, type of main activity and whether or not they engaged in more evening activities away from the home. Examples may help here. As men get older, their fear increases; the proportion feeling very unsafe is more than three times as great in the 65 and over category when compared to the 15 to 24-year-old group. The proportion of urban dwellers feeling somewhat unsafe or very unsafe is generally twice as high that of rural residents, for both sexes. Consistent with the 1988 findings, the youngest and oldest age groups for women (15-24, 65 and older) exhibit the lowest feelings of safety. Overall, victimization rates for women are 11 per cent higher than for men, largely because of the fact that sexual assaults are rarely reported against men. Gender differences are underlined even in relation to marital status, where the rate of victimization is 27 per cent higher for single women than single men and twice as high for separate or divorced women as separated or divorced men. Separated or divorced women have the highest victimization rate of any group.

Several co-related factors increase risk of victimization, and related fears. High levels of risk and fear are evident for women who are young, single, perhaps students or in the work force, and involved in thirty or more evening activities in a mont (the last factor identifies a group who usually for social or work-related reasons go out of their homes almost every night).

From an international perspective, the 1992 International Crime Survey put Canada in the lowest third of twelve countries in terms of fear based on the typical measurement of walking alone in the neighbourhood at night. On another question, Canada placed in the mid-range of countries in terms of its citizens taking precautions when going out at night, particularly through avoiding certain risky areas or staying clear of certain persons. Twenty-one per cent of respondents acknowledged taking precautions, ranking Canada twelfth of twenty countries - Japan was the lowest at 15.6 per cent and Italy was the highest at 38.6 per cent. Asked if they felt somewhat or very unsafe out alone after dark, 20 per cent of Canadians answered in the affirmative, compared for example with Sweden at 13.5 per cent and the United States at 41 per cent. In general, there was a sense that their own neighbourhood was safe and crime was a problem elsewhere.

All these statistics can be a bit numbing and impersonal unless one moves to the stories and the real life experiences of Canadians.

(ii) Fear of Crime: A Description

The Stories:
A woman recently wrote this letter to the Ottawa Citizen:

"When one hears the term 'the silent killer' one usually thinks 'heart attack'. There is another silent killer. Fear. It engulfs you, washes over you, controls your whole being.... I find myself lost, in a sea of swirling emotions with no sense of identity and still controlled by fear - not of the unknown, but because of past memories - knowing what can still happen.... There are days I wish the threat on my life had been carried out. My fear would then be ended. I now have a life sentence of looking over my shoulder, always being on guard, waiting in case he drinks again, places the blame for his unhappiness on me and carries out the threat. To those people who have never lived in an abusive environment, please do not condemn those who remain in the relationship. It is often safer and easier to remain where one knows what is happening, how the pattern runs, what to expect and when.... When we are out of the relationship, the silent killer will devour us because of the not knowing."
Women, particularly those working late at night as waitresses, cashiers or doctors, feel especially vulnerable to certain types of crime such as sexual assault.

High school students who are gay or lesbian report a high proportion of harassment, hostility and violence in high schools where gay jokes are rampant and many students feel perfectly justified in openly expressing their hatred.

Linda MacLeod heard of many women's fears in her cross-country workshops:
being isolated geographically; having no community network; sensing that neighbours or a passer-by would not come to their assistance if they were in danger, or were actually being attacked; believing they would not receive support from other women; not knowing how to get help if they needed it (a fear especially prevalent among immigrants, seniors or the disabled).

People's fear also seems to be influenced by the fact that, through the media, we are exposed daily to the pain of the victims of crime in a manner so intense that we imagine ourselves in the place of those afflicted.

(iii) Fear of Crime: The Consequences

The consequences of all forms of fear of crime are enormous (individual communities would need to study which of these consequences are prevalent locally):

  • Studies reveal that fear of victimization increases psychological distress and decreases outdoor physical activity, both of which negatively affect health.

  • Fear of crime is identified as a factor that can increase the chances that children from public housing developments will fail in school.

  • As women isolate themselves and withdraw from the community in an effort to protect themselves, communities begin to die. Communities wither, Linda MacLeod reminds us, because women are still the "keepers of the community". Women tend to be the volunteers for social and health programs, run the after-school programs, attend the parent-teachers associations, etc.

  • Because of a concern for personal safety or for the security of their property, citizens may be unable to take advantage of social or cultural opportunities in their communities; discretionary income may be diverted towards "security" hardware.

  • Fear of crime affects zoning decisions, stops people from coming to certain tourist spots for holidays, and influences organizations in their selection of sites for conferences (this is practically non-existent in Canadian reported concerns although quite prevalent in what is reflected in the American literature).

  • Parks and playgrounds are abandoned and downtowns are deserted.

  • Levels of interpersonal trust are undermined, frequencies of social interaction are reduced, patterns of spatial mobility are affected. Self-protection measures can be costly in human as well as economic terms.

  • Fear and the withdrawal from community which it spawns can widen the rift between classes as the rich or upper middle class move to what they perceive as safer areas and/or protect themselves with sophisticated security systems and security guards.

  • The literature indicates that fear of crime may itself be seen as a form of psychological distress which lessens the quality of life, restricts access to social or cultural opportunities, and undermines the social integration of local communities.

  • Some women who fear victimization and may already have been victims of sexual assault report an inability to sustain relationships over the long term. Some are afraid to leave their home, paralyzed by an experience of violence which continues to keep them hostage. Years of abuse or a single violent incident can cause nightmares for years and make physical contact or a healthy sexual relationship impossible.

  • Regardless of its source, fear of crime may cause individuals to withdraw physically and psychologically from community life, consequently weakening informal social controls and a neighbourhood's mobilization capacity.

  • While understudied compared to residential areas, business areas are negatively affected as well by fear of crime and related physical and social disorders.

  • It seems psychologically self-evident that fear makes people more defensive and can also make people more punitive.

  • Fear of crime can undermine public confidence in the police as protectors and sustainers of order in society.

  • Women may choose to appear and act "masculine" to divert male attention. A woman may choose not to get into an elevator if there is a lone man in it, she may park her car on the street rather than underground parking, decide never to take a taxi at night or keep her window shut tight on a hot summer night.

A Quebec task force reported in 1993: "It's hard to evaluate the social costs of crime.... Such costs also affect society as a whole, and create a climate of growing insecurity, greater mistrust and an increasing collective inclination toward punitive aggression. In certain neighbourhoods of major cities, hard hit by crime, a number of changes have been noted. Residents avoid leaving their homes and lock themselves in; mistrust and isolation take over; infrastructures and services deteriorate; the labour force moves elsewhere; and economic and cultural development stagnates or regresses."

However, not all of the consequences of fear of crime are negative or lead to dysfunctional living.

Fears may lead to new daily rituals and precautions that are prudent and helpful. Elizabeth Stanko captured many of those rituals in her discussions with women who survived physical and sexual violence. "I only take five dollars with me now", "I just focus on where I am heading", "I go with someone else now". Streetwise rituals included varying routes home, walking on the street-side of the sidewalk or pavement, walking assertively, avoiding dimly-lit areas, selecting parking spaces carefully, never carrying valuables in a handbag, having friends wait outside until one is safely inside, carrying articles or weapons for self defence. There are subtle, small adjustments made by those afraid of crime, for example the decision to take a taxi instead of walking or going with someone else rather than alone.

Undeniably, fear of crime and crime hurt community, especially in that they undermine people coming together and interacting through healthy, viable lives.

Who are the "Fear of Crime" Groups in Canada?

While cautious about importing and applying American research to the Canadian scene, there is valuable and fundamental data in this regard. Numerous studies point to several common variables that account for who is afraid of crime: gender, area of residence (urban or rural), satisfaction with the neighbourhood, age, health, education, social class, marital status, experience of crime, helpfulness of people in the neighbourhood, number of persons living with you, and race. For the most part, those variables influence fears in Canada as well. The most important demographic predictors were sex, area of residence, age, health and whether the individual lived alone. A large body of research has confirmed that fear of crime is greater among women, the aged and the economically disadvantaged.

This demographic profile is significant when, as Vince Sacco has noted, those at high risk of victimization in this country do not in every instance coincide with those who have the highest levels of fear. The risks of victimization in Canada are greatest for those who are young, under 25, male, living in urban areas, members of ethnic minorities and/or economically disadvantaged. Their risks increase even more so if they actively engage in evening leisures, frequently consume alcohol and if they hold certain types of employment. Interestingly, this profile of victim is quite similar to the profile of offender, who also happens largely to be from the same group as has just been described. Glaring exceptions to this risk profile are women who are victims of sexual assaults and victims of break and enter crimes in more affluent homes.

Those young males in urban hot spots may or may not be fearful. Few are at telephones waiting for Statistics Canada to call! They appear either to be a low fear group or do not admit their fear for a number of reasons - a mix of male macho and youth bravado, a feeling of invincibility and their self-confidence against any danger in the street or the neighbourhood.

But there are many primary fear groups which have been studied.

(i) Women and Fear of Crime

"Fear stalks the city. Although you might think it would prefer the shadows, it is not really afraid of the light.... Fear can strike at any time. It starts growing in childhood and is passed down from mother to daughter.... Fear knows no age limits but, like violence, carefully chooses its target. It lives and grows in the hearts of all women, regardless of their appearance, age or colour because... fear belongs to women."
Fear on Trial
Theatre Parminou

"The fear of violence is something terrible. Physically, it's terrible; mentally, it's terrible. However, the stigma and the fear of coming out and the lack of resources are worse than the beating themselves."
Battered but not Beaten, Linda MacLeod

"What, then, makes the death of Georgina Leimonis more frightening still? I think it is that in the dark stairwell and the night-time parking garage, I have always known the risk was there, in the shadows. Every woman does. We take it because it is, after all, a very small risk, and this is still Canada. We have calculated the odds and made our choice. At least that much seems in our control. But what are the odds of death from sitting in a brightly lit cafe on a Tuesday evening with your friends, in the midst of a cheerful crowd of strangers indulging a sweet tooth? There used to be no odds on that, not in this country, not even for a woman. Now, it seems, there are."
Margaret Wente
Globe and Mail columnist

Holly Johnson calls it debunking the paradox.

Women were a high fear group who were not at high risk of victimization, so the traditional theory in criminology concluded. This line of reasoning was founded on a fear of crime concept that too narrowly looked at violent crime committed in public places, mostly by strangers, and almost totally ignored fear of danger from a woman's perspective. The standard thesis failed to capture women's lived experiences of sexual and physical violence.

In more complex analyses of fear of crime, being a female always emerges as the most significant risk factor. Many researchers conclude this is more closely related to a very specific fear of sexual assault. Women have an unique vulnerability to sexual aggression. This fear of sexual assault is then woven into anxiety about other crimes, such as burglary or robbery attended by the threat of sexual assault. And, in the words of Holly Johnson, Project Manager for the Violence Against Women Survey who is writing an academic text on violence against women and their fears, "young women learn about sexual danger at a very early age. It is young women who are seen as sexually attractive. It is open season on them. It is young women who are among the highest fear group."

Women are assaulted often by known male assailants, leading to fear of known and presumably safe environments and fear of violence in familiar environments, such as neighbourhoods.

Like men, women's fears are influenced by age, residence, income, race and marital status. Yet women's fears cross the boundaries of all those variables. This report has already cited the staggering statistics confirming that slightly more than four in ten women feel unsafe in walking in their neighbourhood at night.

"It becomes apparent when women's patterns of victimization are compared to men's," writes Linda MacLeod "that because a higher proportion of women are victimized in their own homes, because women are more likely than men to be victimized by someone known to them, and because women's victimization is related to economic, physical as well as social disadvantage and vulnerability, it is much more difficult for women to avoid their victimization or to predict it, even if women were to severely curtail their patterns of daily life by reducing their activities outside their homes. Thus women's feelings of helplessness in the face of potential victimization are higher than those of men, and fear among women naturally and appropriately escalates to a higher level than fear among men."
The reasons for their fear are complicated. Among others, Elizabeth Stanko and Liz Kelly have made a monumental contribution to the understanding of women's fears of crime by placing those fears within the continuum of violence or threat of violence experienced by too many women in society. Victimization surveys tended to ask respondents only about their previous twelve-month experience of victimization and only dealt with offences in the Criminal Code. A woman who was raped at 17 would not be categorized as a victim in a survey interview conducted when she was 24, despite its profound effect on her life, including her fears.

In Surviving Sexual Violence, Liz Kelly describes this continuum of violence drawing on the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of contiuum as denoting either a basic common character that underlies many different events or a continuous series of elements that pass into one another and which cannot be readily distinguished. Women can and too often do experience abuse, intimidation, coercion, intrusion, threat and force, primarily from men. Kelly documented and named the range of sexual violence women experience and fear: sexual harassment(including looks, gestures, remarks, acts), pressure to have sex, sexual assault, obscene phone calls, coercive sex, domestic violence, sexual abuse, flashing, rape and incest. These are not clearly defined, distinct categories stretching in linear fashion in a woman's life. Rather, they intersect in layers of acts and emotions, resulting in what Holly Johnson of Statistics Canada calls fear of crime becoming "a shorthand for many things associated with women's experience and fears related to violence".

Note: Much of this is feminist garbage.... twisting the facts to suit the prejudices and hatred of men The Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women which was a farce and waste of money, alluded to this continuum, noting that violence ranges from verbal insults through physical blows to murder and is the consequence of social, economic and political inequality built into the structure of society and reinforced through assumptions expressed in the languages and ideologies of sexism, racism and classism.

The Violence Against Women Survey in 1993 attempted to honour this "continuum of violence theory" by expanding the reference period of victimization from one year to any occurrences since the age of 16 and expanding the scope of threatening behaviour which had been previously not measured. For many, this represents a more accurate reflection of risk, although the survey had its critics for its description of sexual assault and for excluding men and everyone under sixteen.

Part of the difficulty in gauging whether the fears and precautions taken by women are warranted is in the debate on the reliability of statistics and the known under-reporting of crimes such as sexual assault. Victim surveys generally confirm that official crime rates substantially underestimate the magnitude of the problems, particularly in areas such as violence against women, children and the elderly.

The impact of violence on women is a complex matter. Acts of violence cannot be ranked arbitrarily in a line of severity based on seriousness of the offence, as if that automatically would determine the seriousness of its impact or corresponding level of fear to be expected. Yet that is what early research in this area did.

Flashing, for example, may be categorized as a minor offence vis-a-vis Criminal Code punishment and perhaps even minor from the perspective of the victim and the victim's circle of friends who might laugh it off and/or be grateful that nothing more serious happened. However, flashing is a poignant reminder of a woman's vulnerability, the victim terrorized because she has no control over the situation and knows it is largely up to the perpetrator how far it will go. Her fear of crime is linked inextricably to an imminent fear of danger. Her being "flashed" is tucked away in her book of life that will influence future chapters and future incidents where fear lurks. In the example of flashing, one immediate, localized effect is that a person may well not go to a particular place or engage in an activity at a particular time anymore. Flashing produces other negative and more general effects, adding to fears of open spaces or going out alone.

As well, obviously serious offences such as rape are seldom an isolated event. A rape may also involve a threat with a weapon, robbery, assault and even murder. In the eyes of a woman, every rape carries with it the threat of death. Rape can define a woman's life forcefully in terms of pain and terror. A woman named Linda told Elizabeth Stanko: " I think of my life as pre-rape and post-rape in some ways."

Gordon and Riger, in their book, The Female Fear, list seven factors contributing to women's fear: socialization teaching girls to be afraid of sex and men and giving women ambiguous messages about their sexuality; experiences with rapes or mini-rapes, petty rapes, unwanted hugs, pinches etc.; myths about rape which suggest women are responsible; the visible presence of a neighbourhood, anti-crime organization; personal knowledge of actual crimes; media sensationalizing of crimes; general societal condoning of sexual violence and male aggression in courtship. From her community dialogues with women, Linda MacLeod would add several more factors: isolation of the individual woman, insufficient contact with police; a general sense that no one cares about either the individual or the neighbourhood or about perceived problems; and feelings of powerlessness to affect perceived problems.

Fear is aggravated by the knowledge that women do not have power, status or even credibility in segments of society. Women's fears are intensified by their responsibility and altruistic fear for their children - that those children will be hurt or that they themselves will be hurt and will be unable to care for their children. Fears are magnified by a woman's feeling of physical vulnerability.

The many voices of women in fear were heard when Linda MacLeod did a series of community workshops in 1990 sponsored by Secretary of State Canada. Fears of sexual assault outside the home by a male stranger or a slight acquaintance, as well as sexual and/physical assault in the home by a partner, may have dominated the discussions but there were other fears:

  • fear of being unprotected by the justice system.

  • fear particularly pronounced by aboriginal and other racial and ethnic minority women of being assaulted physically or sexually by police.

  • fear of people in authority more generally, including church leaders, health-care workers, social workers and lawyers.

  • fear of being isolated by geography, lack of knowledge, illiteracy, language, racism or the lack of people's concern for one another.

  • fear of intolerance and racism.

  • fear that their children will not be safe.

  • fear of sexual harassment and physical or sexual assault in the workplace.

  • fear of prevalent portrayals of violence against women through the media, through sexist or implicitly violent advertising and through the widespread availability of pornography.

  • fear of men generally.

  • fear of living in a violent society.

As this report was being written, Statistics Canada released a study, Women Assaulted by Strangers, based on more detailed analysis of the Violence Against Women Survey data; the study announced that women's safety fears are also traced to encounters with strangers, with one quarter of the women surveyed from age 18 to 24 acknowledging they had been assaulted by a stranger at least once since the age of 16 in acts that ranged from unwanted sexual touching to rape involving injury.

Judging from the initial media fallout, it seemed that the pendulum had swung back to the perception that women had more to fear from the stranger than from those they knew. Holly Johnson said the very first media question asked of the Statistics Canada author was: "We were led to believe that the home was the place women should fear the most. Now this report is saying the opposite."

Holly Johnson comments: "The author's response was that this report is just the latest analysis of data from the Violence Against Women Survey. It is added to what we already knew. It doesn't contradict earlier findings. Those questions and reactions seem to indicate a lack of appreciation for the women's perspective and the continuum of violence.... We also get locked into a crime prevention mode that says it has to be either public or private danger and that the public danger has to be the stranger, the monster predator. Not enough distinctions are made."

The Women Assaulted by Strangers study indicated that only nine per cent of sexual assaults were reported to police. Forty-four per cent of the women who chose not to report those sexual assaults gave as their reason that it was too minor while another 14 per cent felt the police could not do anything about it. Holly Johnson said it is very difficult to interpret from a survey what the women mean when they describe a sexual assault as too minor. It may in fact have been minor or, quite to the contrary and typical of battered or assaulted women, they may be minimizing the offence, think no one will understand and that the criminal justice system will not be helpful.

The location of the stranger assault varied - the street, a bar or dance and public building being more common but a car, her workplace, public transport, her home and a rural area also proving unsafe. Consequently, a "geography of fear" for women slips into a "geography of limitation", curtailing lifestyles and mobility. It begs a thorny but necessary social policy debate about who is responsible for male aggression; where does one draw the line between expecting women to take reasonable, prudent precautions for their safety and their right to live full, equal and whole lives.

Meanwhile, the fears of more and more women who are either in single-parent or two parent families are aggravated in Canada because most do not have the choice of restricting movements outside the home. They must work.

Significantly, with respect to fear of crime, this new study found that among women who had been physically assaulted by a stranger, almost half reported being more fearful and two of every five women said they were more cautious or aware. For sexual assault victims of strangers, one in four women was more fearful and slightly more than one in three women more cautious or aware.

Any fear of crime study and any fear-reduction or crime prevention program needs to give prominent attention to this experience of women. Perspective is demanded too. It is good news that almost three of every five Canadian women are not afraid of walking in their neighbourhoods at night. Surely there are lessons to be gained from their lives about fear and coping with fear. Yet for too many women in our country, their fear is increased by their understanding and/or experience that they have no "safe" place. In the words of Elizabeth Stanko, "if women commonly encounter threatening and/or violent behaviour from men who are strangers and from men who are known to them, how can they predict which man will be violent to them and in what instance?"

The Elderly
Getting older in Canada does not put one at greater risk of victimization but it does increase one's fear of crime in some substantial ways. This is a significant group to assist in their fears related to crime, for a number of reasons:
in certain situations, seniors exhibit high levels of fear of crime; the fragility and pronounced vulnerability of some seniors demand greater attention; this is the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population.

Early in the next century, one in four Canadians will be a senior citizen. Studies have shown today's seniors to be more independent and financially secure than past generations with, of course a notable exception being that a disturbing number of seniors are at, or below, poverty levels. One sensible hypothesis is that crime will increase against seniors as their numbers and assets increase. Their fear of vulnerability is also likely to increase. That will result in seniors placing more calls to a police force that has trouble even now meeting all the demands from the public. Constable Chuck Prince, a British Columbia community police officer, describes seniors as a "victim waiting for a crime to happen".

We have already reported on Vince Sacco's Juristat article which suggested that there is mixed evidence for the view that fear of crime is a more serious problem for the elderly. They are almost twice as likely to indicate feeling "unsafe" about walking in their neighbourhood at night - an exercise they may not regularly do in any event - but their fear levels matched other groups when they were asked about being home alone in the evening or assessing their general safety from crime. Interestingly, elderly women had significantly lower amounts of fear about being home alone at night. Holly Johnson speculated that may have something to do with women outliving their partners and being more accustomed to being alone in the home. Those in their home alone who do report fear have difficulty managing a home and implementing sound crime prevention strategies.

The elderly have concrete fears about specific crime. They worry about grocery shopping while carrying money in their wallet or purse. Some resist and even fear the technology of credit cards or instant banking cards. In Winnipeg, according to Rick Linden, they are concerned about auto theft, purse snatching and break and enter. However, the elderly are not specifically targeted for most crime, except for a few crimes like scams or frauds.

They are a good group to examine for an understanding of the analysis that the crimes committed against them may not rank at the high end of seriousness but may have very serious consequences. There are profound differences for the lives of a twenty-five-year-old woman, as compared to a sixty-five-year-old woman, of either having one's entire savings wiped out by a fraud, or falling and breaking a hip during a purse snatching. So seniors may have high amounts of fear for crimes which many in society might not categorize as serious. Their physical and financial circumstances may hinder their recovery from crime.

Their diffused fears are related more to vulnerability than to victimization. Seniors represent three per cent of all victims of violent crime while they are 16 per cent of the population. Their rate of victimization was so low according to the 1993 General Social Survey that it could not even be measured, given the survey's sample population of 10,000.

While not seemingly at actual risk now as a senior citizen, that is not to say that earlier life experiences, including victimization, may well be colouring their fears in the present and future.

The elderly's fear of criminal victimization seems more linked to their physical and social vulnerability. It may include a logical assessment of their ability to defend themselves physically in the face of an assailant who, often enough, is much younger and a male. As a consequence, they are more frightened before, during and after the commission of the crime.

Many seniors struggle with increasing vulnerability because of aging, frailty and losing control. They are afraid of becoming ill, or poor, or being abandoned by their family and friends and, according to Ron Melchers, there are a host of far less remote fears which plague their minds constantly. If communities assisted them with their fears about crime, - both the concrete fears and the more diffused fears which relate to their other fears - that may lessen their sense of powerlessness and help them deal with the other fears which are not related to crime. Those struggles cannot be eradicated completely in the human journey but there are social supports that might well enhance the quality of life during a period many find fearful.

Research from several American studies on the fear of crime among the elderly deserve mention:

  • fear of crime was related to dissatisfaction with the neighbourhood, low morale and involuntary isolation. The elderly lose access to many community facilities as they age, including churches, community centres, the neighbourhood grocer, doctor and druggist. The elderly who are poor are more afraid.

  • an interesting fear of crime study on elderly Jews living in Boston and London, England revealed the significance of community interaction in dealing with those fears. Residents in both cities had comparable experiences and language to describe the problem of crime and its impact on them. But the Boston seniors retreated behind closed doors while the London residents continued their daily routine almost uninterrupted. Researchers discovered that the London group felt much more a part of their community.

  • "members of kin" networks may act as threats to the elderly through their warnings of dangers from crime. Fear of neighbourhood crime was greater for those who more frequently socialized with relatives, presumably hearing the "news" and gossip of the community. This points to the need for a de-briefing and support group for seniors to speak about their fears and what they are hearing about crime. Even that group itself needs skilled facilitators to ensure that the telling of stories will not make matters worse.

Urban Residents
Urban men and women are more fearful than rural men and women and they are more likely to take routine measures to protect themselves from crime, according to the 1993 General Social Survey. Rebecca Kong, writing in a Juristat article on Urban/Rural Criminal Victimization in Canada, reports that:
  • compared to rural populations, a larger proportion of urban residents are fearful in certain situations. Urban residents are twice as likely to feel unsafe when walking alone in their neighbourhoods after dark. One-half of urban residents and over one-third of rural residents feel worried when using public transportation alone in the evening.

  • Those fears are at least partly related to concerns about victimization; 27 per cent of urban residents reported that they had been victims of crime in the previous year, compared to 17 per cent of rural residents. The rate of personal victimization was 44 per cent higher among urban than rural residents and the rate of household victimization was 67 per cent higher among urban than rural residents.

  • fear is not only a function of area of residence but also of gender. Women in both urban and rural areas consistently demonstrate higher levels of fear than men, with 38 per cent of women in urban areas and 32 per cent of women in rural areas saying they are "very or somewhat worried" about being at home alone in the evening(compared to 12 per cent and 9 per cent for the men in each group).

  • people living in urban areas were twice as likely as rural residents to have installed new locks or a burglar alarm, taken a self-defence course or changed their telephone numbers to guard themselves against crime. Less than one-quarter of rural residents changed their routine or avoided certain places to keep from being victimized, compared to over one-third of urban residents.
As in other population groups, victimization rates will vary according to factors such as gender, age, marital status, type of main activity and number of evening activities per month. In both urban and rural areas, the highest rates of personal victimization included women, young people, people not married, students and those out most evenings in the month.

The rural resident may have less fear of the stranger, not only because of the smaller, more tightly-knit community he or she resides in but because statistics confirm that almost three-quarters of violent incidents there are committed by an acquaintance or relative. (71 per cent in the rural population, compared to 57 per cent for the urban population)

"Given that urban populations are victimized at a higher rate and are more likely to be violently victimized by a stranger," writes Ms. Kong, "it is understandable that urban residents are more fearful when in certain situations and more likely to take precautions to protect themselves and their homes."

The urban resident is not afraid all the time but again in mostly concrete situations, maximized by when he or she meets the "stranger", stranger in the personal sense or stranger in the cultural sense. It is urban life that gives us those situations where we meet up with so many people from different cultures.

Victims of Crime
There has already been considerable reference elsewhere in this report to the effect of victimization on fears. It was mentioned that fear of crime is measured by two primary factors - perceived risk and perceived seriousness. A 1981 survey in Seattle concluded that these two factors carry equal weight but that fear levels were not necessarily always the highest for violent crimes. Reducing perceived risk did appear to be an effective means of reducing fear.

In Canada, while there are not obvious, sharp differences generally in the fear level between victims and non-victims, there are noticeable, increased fears and added precautions for those who have been the victim of a few serious crimes such as sexual assault and robbery.

Anyone who has had a home burglarized knows the lingering, emotional damage caused by the break and enter. People for some time cannot return to their home in ease. Once the key has opened the front door, eyes dart from room to room, furniture to furniture to see if anything is out of place. Ears strain to hear strange noises in the yard or driveway. People sense a personal violation because of the penetration of their private space. Some admit to recurring nightmares.

Those who have not been victims may minimize the impact of less serious crime. However, Howard Zehr, who has worked extensively with victims and victim/offender reconciliation programs, contends that being a victim is a deeply traumatic experience even for minor crime. As well, victims will have fears from the crime which they now associate with a whole gender, male for example, or an entire race. Zehr noted that the persisting emotional intensity for victims might suggest a crime happened recently when in fact it may well have occurred many years ago. Many victims report the experience of a re-victimization through their disappointing dealings with the criminal justice system after the crime. This can also exacerbate their fears. Signficantly, the "monster" created in a victim's mind tends to shrink in many cases to manageable proportions once the victim is able to confront the offender in a safe setting and begin to get answers about why he or she was selected as a target.

The General Social Survey data from 1993 indicated that two-thirds of victims of sexual assault were unable to carry on with their normal activities for at least one day following the incident and that twenty per cent said they found it difficult to resume their normal activities for ten days or more. Psychological injuries - including stress and fear-induced paranoia - are common outcomes of a victimization experience and may be particularly severe for victims of sexual assault.

In the literature, there was reference to an interesting project in Houston where police did follow-up contacts with victims every two months after the crime. The contact reassured some victims but there were also cultural differences in how the police were received and how the program impacted on victims. Some Hispanic groups with a history of tense police-community relations did not report the same reassurance felt by others.

Finally, there was the assumption in some of the research that fear in a victim will dissipate with time. Yet, there are other studies that observed that, despite an initial decline in the fear level for victims in a first phase after the crime, that the fear level later increased, as a result of changes to lifestyle and behaviour along with taking extra precautions such as buying a security alarm.

Ethnocultural Groups
Barry Thomas and Sgt. Keith Wiltshire, from the Canadian Centre for Police-Race Relations based in Ottawa, are in the midst of a number of urban consultations with community stakeholders. While those consultations were not on fear of crime directly, the issue surfaced frequently in the discussions.

  • Montreal: The Spanish and Latin American community aired its grievance about a 1994 World Cup Championship celebration in the city in which members complained that a police overreaction led to calling out the riot squad. The community said they were paranoid about making official complaints to the police. Immigrants spoke of being afraid of gang crimes and the police, the latter fear linked to the risk of deportation.

  • Toronto: The concern for youth and particularly black youth predominated in the consultation here. There were references to the dangerous mix of black youth and firearms, "a daily occurrence in Scarborough". Many articulated an altruistic fear for the youth and for others in the community.

  • Vancouver: Four separate consultations were held with the Chinese, Vietnamese, Black and Aboriginal communities. Barry Thomas watched a Chinatown jeweller take 25 minutes to put two steel grates over his store. Similar security was evident elsewhere. There were references to high levels of fear with personal safety and property concerns at the top of the list in the consultation with the Chinese community. Disorder and incivility are a problem for some. "You see people fixing themselves (drugs) right on the street. Chinatown is dead at 8:30 in the evening," Mr. Thomas said. The elderly have concerns with fears. Wealthier families from Hong Kong and Taiwan are concerned with the number of robberies and break and enter crimes. The Vietnamese consultation focused on youth gangs, including the threat of home invasions which are a reality in the city. Many of the gang members are from the refugee camps. "I guess the streets of Vancouver are tame compared to some of the camps and the experience of Vietnam," Mr. Thomas noted. "The kids hang around on the street, have time on their hands, get into petty and then more serious crime. They get hassled by the police, stopped, get a rap or a reputation and then bothered constantly. They get criminalized fairly easily."
He suspects the elderly in many of these groups have a "double and triple whammy" with respect to their fears, struggling like seniors in the Caucasian race to deal with elder abuse but also being prisoners because of language problems and, in the case of women, often inferior status within their culture. The racial factor mingles with the youth factor so that a group of young black men on a streetcorner are perceived to be more threatening.

He said the aboriginal situation in Vancouver is desperate. Participants commented on pimps from other ethnocultural groups preying on the young women. There are few services, suicide is high and urban natives tend to get criminalized easily.

Rick Linden commented that the amount of crime in the Vietnamese community does not increase fears throughout Vancouver because most people realize they are not at risk - the victims are other Vietnamese. This is not to dismiss the problem of crime in that community; however, it is an illustration that, for the most part, people judge what their risk is, and act accordingly.

Hate crimes are a source of fear for personal safety for ethnocultural groups and individuals, particularly hate organizations which promote racism. People feel threatened directly because they are members of a group which is attacked.

In cases of family violence, women may be afraid of how they will be treated by police and courts. They fear the adverse reaction that may result if they violate community norms by exposing private family matters to public scrutiny. Linda MacLeod and Maria Shin conducted telephone interviews with 39 women immigrants who had been abused as well as some community workers. These women spoke neither French or English as their first language. "We know very little about these women, for they are invisible to most people who are not part of their culture, who do not speak their language. Their abuse and suffering are often invisible even to people in their culture. They truly live silenced lives with silent fears and unheard hopes," their report stated.

The fear of reporting and its related fear of reprisal are both in evidence in ethnocultural communities. A Toronto Star story in 1989 referred to those fears and distrust of government in the Asian community making potential witnesses to crime reluctant to go to the police. Criminals then use this fear and distrust to flourish. Constable Quoc toan Trinh in Montreal estimates that 75 per cent of crime within the Asian community is not reported.

As well, those immigrants and even Canadian-born members of ethnocultural groups tend to congregate and settle in large urban centres because of their greater access to their cultural and community associations. So any fears related to crime are compounded by this urban factor. Fear of the stranger from another culture alienates these individuals even further.

When there is crime in their community, this group faces enormous obstacles. There tends to be a poor general knowledge of the law due to unfamiliarity with the Canadian way of life. People are discouraged by language difficulties. There may be limited income and apprehensiveness about dealing with people outside of their own cultural community, especially when the crime is within their cultural group.

One focus study by the Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia found that the Chinese community did not view the court system favourably and would avoid the justice system wherever possible. As well, a lack of proficiency in English can "in effect be the closed door behind which some seniors live in confined and sometimes fearful existence". People stay home, perhaps out of fear of danger, but also because it is more comfortable for them.

The Gay, Lesbian and Bi-Sexual Community

" Many of his colleagues didn't recognize (Jeff) Harris when he arrived in the emergency ward, vomiting blood. Nine doctors, including an eye specialist and oral surgeon, hovered over him, estimating he had lost more than six pints of blood. When the swelling in his brain subsided, it took more than six hours and 280 stitches just to close the wounds temporarily - and wire together the 27 facial fractures, including 11 breaks in his smashed jaw."
Calgary Herald, Jan. 7, 1990

Incident involving Ed Pollak's partner: "He was kicked in the face, in the head, shoulder, arms with boots. Like a sack of potatatos. He had bruising from his waist to his neck for a month."
Xtra, Toronto
Feb. 18, 1994

Fear of crime is a significant reality in the gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual community in Canada. It is directly related to victimization and a sense of vulnerability.

People have been murdered, brutalized or harassed because someone thought they were gay, lesbian and bisexual. They are verbally abused, physically harmed and sexually abused. In Ottawa, statistics from the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Bias Crime Unit indicate that 45 of 387 investigated offences since the unit's creation had to do with an incident based on bias against sexual orientation. Gay and lesbian students in high school report a high proportion of harassment, hostility and violence where gay jokes are rampant and many students sense an immunity in openly expressing their hatred. These students classify schools as the least safe place in the city.

The U.S.-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force states that one in five gay men and one in ten lesbians reported being assaulted, one third reported being threatened with violence and nine of ten experienced some type of harassment, threats or assault based upon perception of their sexual orientation. Carol Holland from the Ottawa bias crime unit cited anecdotal evidence of gay bashing, including a woman beaten, a brother murdered, a harassed youth who dropped out of school and anti-bashing posters which were defaced in schools.

Hate crimes have a unique and extraordinary impact on victims. There is excessive brutality by the perpetrators - weapons such as bats, hammers or a screwdriver are not uncommon. There is the terrorization and personal rejection of someone for who they are. Gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals are viewed by the perpetrators as deviant sexual beings rather than human beings. As one young, heterosexual woman told a fellow crime prevention worker, "when heterosexuals meet another heterosexual, they see a whole person. When some heterosexuals meet a gay or lesbian person, they see only sex."

In most other hate or bias attacks, the victim makes the mistake of entering alien territory. But with "gay-bashing", attackers usually leave their own territory to hunt down their victims.

Victims of bias crimes suffer two to three times more symptoms of trauma than do victims of comparable crimes that do not involve prejudice, according to the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence in the United States. A bias crime can directly affect the victim, the entire target group and the community at large, in terms of the distribution of fear.

Kevin Berrill, an American hate crimes expert, is eloquent in his description of the pervasive damage from these crimes:

"As with racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and other bias-motivated crimes, these attacks are intended to violate and isolate not just the victim but an entire group. Unlike opportunistic crimes, these attacks are motivated less by the desire to rip people off than to rip them apart... they are acts of terrorism intended to punish gay people, women and people of colour for being visible and to frighten them from exercising... freedom of speech, association and assembly."
Predictably, there is also the problem of the crimes not being reported or those who refuse to press charges out of fear of reprisals or fear of being "outed". There is fear that they will be subjected to uncaring hospital, police and court systems. So their fear of crime encompasses a fear of the criminal justice system where they have experienced re-victimization through further discrimination and hatred.

As with other groups, a combination of demographic factors - for example, a woman of colour who is a lesbian - greatly escalates one's fear of crime.

There were a number of other groups either reporting much lower levels of fear or for whom very little research has been done. This report now highlights several of those groups.

The study of male victimization, vulnerability and related fears is a virtual wasteland.

Pockets of fear are acknowledged in the General Social Survey data, with only about one of every ten Canadian males fearful of walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night or being alone. Those levels of fear increase as men get older. Income levels affect male fears more than female fears. Men restrict their lives less than women.

Research indicates that men are more likely to show anger than distress or shock in response to burglary. They also feel an altruistic fear out of concern for their partners, parents and children.

Co-related factors again can compound fears. Gay men have a sense of how their homosexuality places them in many situations of vulnerability. Men from several minority groups have had to assess their physical vulnerability and negotiate risk because of experiences of racism.

There are a few reasonable hypotheses and some speculation about why we have such little sense of the impact of such criminal violence on men. For sure, men are almost completely excluded from the major victimization of reported sexual assault, although more recent studies are acknowledging more and more boys who have been sexually assaulted.

Often criminology's failure to explore men's particular experiences of violence is attributed to men's reluctance to report weakness. Are men reluctant to report or acknowledge fear because of masculine bravado and the accompanying childhood and adolescent lessons regarding their personal safety - who is better than who, who is bigger than who, who is stronger than who?

The little research there is indicates that male victims of assault view their victimization through a male frame, the essence of which sees victimization as weak and helpless. Many men who have difficulties in expressing feelings find themselves isolated and unable to ask for support. There is more of a tendency in men to externalize blame for the victimization while women will internalize that blame.

Men manage danger quite differently. Sometimes they physically challenge it because of their size and stature. Danger is seldom a part of their everyday experience and they rarely need to isolate themselves, as many women reported having to do. Some men enjoy the advantages of status - economic, racial or sexual -, with profound consequences for their levels of fear.

According to Elizabeth Stanko, while women's fears are placed within a wider structural context of economic, racial and gendered inequality - steeped in the analysis of structures of patriarchy - explanations of men's experiences of criminal violence neglect the structures of men's lives, unless it be the structure of class against class. There is very little research on how men feel about the assaults in their lives or how different men respond to violent victimization.

Any focus on younger men and their experience of violence highlights certain lifestyle choices which present criminal opportunities. In other words, a number of young men who are victims of crime are offenders too, getting injured in the act of crime.

One study in Britain interviewed 33 men to explore a male understanding of the gendered context of their responses to assault. It was quite apparent that their frame of masculinity, "being men", was at the heart of their emotional, physical and social responses to victimization. Some referred to the "John Wayne syndrome", "Macho Man", "cave man", "defender". Negotiating physical violence while growing up was a backdrop to their lives. These men acknowledged the complexities of race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability and geographical influences on this negotiation of violence. They thought violence was something one had to deal with, that danger and harm a physical challenge which many men accepted.

Fear was the emotional reaction most consistently reported. At the time of an attack, many feared for their lives. Fear was also clearly related to a particular venue or to situations which served as triggers to remind the victim of the stressful event. The British participants made the following comments: "I won't return to a football match"; "I won't casually talk to people like I used to"; "I'll never open the door to anybody, especially a knock on the door at night."

The men spoke of the trap they find themselves in, needing help but not wanting to burden their wives or mothers and sensing their response is "unmanly" and weak. Men are not a homogeneous group. Their experiences of victimization and any emotional fallout were mediated by their age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, employment and several other factors.

There has also been practically no research on how police and other services respond to men who are assaulted.

Sexual Offenders and their Families
Many sex offenders live their lives in fear, not only literal fear for their lives within prison because they are the "scum of the scum" in the prisoners' own caste system but fear that an unsympathetic public will stigmatize them forever. After Toronto police had warned residents that a convicted sex offender was planning to live with his mother in the same apartment building, Fran, one of the residents, told the press: "His mother is taking him back in, so everybody on the floor is looking to move. Everyone is petrified."

As well, sex offenders have their own fears about loved ones; they are concerned about public backlash or vigilantism hurting their families. A Washington State mother told a newspaper after her 16-year-old son was identified publically: "This is our prison. We live in constant fear."

Inmates in Prison
Very little research has been done on fear of danger or fear of crime for inmates in prison, although anecdotal evidence strongly corroborates fears related to physical or sexual assault. One of the few studies, conducted on 300 inmates in a maximum security prison in Nashville, Tennesee, discovered that fear of victimization was an extremely important predictor of inmate well-being. Older inmates and those with more education reported better mental health as well as less stress and fear levels.

Those reporting the highest levels of fear tended to be young, socially isolated and more frequent targets of victimization. Fears can impact negatively on longer sentences and family and social ties can deteriorate rapidly.

Elizabeth Stanko noted in her research that it is the rare man who mentions the threat of sexual violence, an exception being men in prison.

There were isolated references in the research to other fear groups, almost none of which have been studied in any depth. Those groups are: street and homeless kids, persons with disabilities e.g. the legally blind, store owners and refugees.

Who Are Canadians Afraid Of?

Tony Doob is convinced that the generic phrase, "fear of crime" is a polite, neutral, depoliticized term masking Canadians' real fears of very particular types of criminals. People don't fear crime. People fear criminals who do crime and, in Doob's view, there are specific kinds of offenders who people especially fear. Young offenders. Sex offenders. Those from another race or culture, for example the black community with Jamaican roots in Toronto. It is Doob's contention that we need to be honest about that in order to begin to unpack those layers of fear; perhaps in some instances, in certain locations, those fears are grounded in genuine risk of victimization but Doob knows well the statistics confirming that those fears often have less to do with crime rates than with prejudices, attitudes, ignorance and misinformation.

Fear of the Young Offender

"The way they (violent schoolchildren) express themselves is a lot more extreme. I don't think teachers walk around all day worrying about their safety. But there is a climate of concern which, in a lot of cases, is bordering on despair."
Richard Kollins
Toronto Board of Education superintendent

"Why are we so afraid of our kids? What about society being responsible for its crimes against youth? It is so much safer to depersonalize people and make them into these evil creatures. Then you can feel like you're crusading against something rather than realizing they could be just sad little boys."
Adele McDougall
Edmonton woman who works with young offenders and their families

There is a raging debate in this country about youth crime, who is responsible for it, and what should be done to young offenders. It has been an emotional debate not always grounded in reason, perhaps somewhat understandable in the wake of rare but shocking, high profile crimes which leave communities reeling and which echo across the land for months after the incident. In the words of Julian Roberts, criminology professor at University of Ottawa, there is no such thing as an overreaction for those who witness the murder of a family member. Their anger, their grief, their rage, are predictable and normal. But among other Canadians, the vast majority of whom have not suffered that horror, enough still feel threatened and afraid. They add their voice to a "law and order" chorus, supporting the current crackdown on young offenders. What is it that Canadians fear when they consider young offenders and their crimes? Do legitimate concerns give way to fear and why?

Consider recent developments:
More homes are being broken into and a good number of the offenders are youth.

While many schools offer safe environments, some teachers report in several urban centres disturbing increases in cruelty and violence, even at the elementary school level with accounts of bullying, penny-ante extortion and the occasional weapon in use.

Altruistic fear for our children is high because of some knowledge of the pressures they face. Bhim Rana, a Toronto social worker, said: "Guys are carrying guns because other guys are carrying guns". Fred Matthews, who authored Youth Gangs on Youth Gangs, said: "The research says students are scared. I have to go to board people and teachers and say: 'What part of "I'm scared" is it that you don't understand."

A 27-year-old, British-born engineer out for a stroll on a Sunday night in Ottawa is gunned down by young offenders. An Edmonton woman investigating a noise in her house is stabbed to death by a young offender. An elderly Montreal couple is clubbed to death by three young teenagers who, according to news reports, murdered "for the thrill of it". These high profile incidents hit too close to home for many Canadians who are visibly shaken by the pain of the victim's families and can well imagine the same crime happening to them. What is more normal than a Sunday walk or getting out of bed to check on the children because a parent had heard a noise in the house?

Ken Hatt believes that there is a moral panic surfacing against our youth - an escalating cycle of fear that is somewhat self-reproducing and exceeds the evidence for the concern which is expressed. Some politicians during election campaigns can mirror and feed that moral panic.

Julian Roberts is not sure that the anti-youth orientation in the country is fear based, in the sense that someone would fear a young offender in the same way that he would fear a bank robber. He calls the "fears" more of a moral outrage. "The public turn on the television and they see a young offender, maybe just one young offender, laughing at the law and saying it is a joke," he explained. " That makes people mad. They say these kids don't respect us and society's laws." The frustration and powerlessness some parents experience with their own children also can sustain the outrage about youth criminal behaviour.

Of course, adults today are not the first generation to be concerned about delinquency or youth rebellion. It is written in the daily struggles of every generation. As legitimate as the concern about youth violence is, Vince Sacco thinks the country is in need of this historical perspective too.

Indeed perspective is what is required in any measured response to youth crime. Lou Golding, social worker with the Scarborough Youth Link social agency, said "most schools are safe. Ninety per cent of the students in even a rough school are adept at steering around risky situations."

Fear is also a two-way street, according to youth. Jean-Paul Brodeur referred to the chronic feelings of insecurity among our young. Kids resent being hassled by store owners and waitresses. People fear them or at least react negatively. "People put all the blame on us. They don't understand what it's like for us.... There are reasons behind what we are doing" commented a youth in a substance abuse program with Portage at Elora, Ont.

Fred Matthews has identified vulnerability factors in the young person's family and developmental history that would either predispose the youth to involvement in gangs or aggressive violent or anti-social behaviour - previous history of physical or sexual abuse or neglect, substance-abusing parents, criminal or dysfunctional family, unemployment, difficulties in adjusting to a new life in Canada, child poverty, undiagnosed learning problems or difficulties in school, and the presence of current or chronic life stressors.

It is the "us" and "them" world that breeds fear, and can foster scapegoating. Urban cities are built without places for teenagers to hang out. "They want a place to go and not be hassled," a parent commented. "But people get fed up with skateboarders blocking customer traffic at the mall, or littering the parking lot, or breaking bottles." The vast majority of law-abiding teenagers hang around on street corners or at shopping malls, a typical socialization process that is often misunderstood as representing a threat to the community. These groups can become involved in nuisance behaviour and, less frequently, in violent or other criminal activity based on situational factors.

It seems logical that the fears, frustrations and moral outrage directed at young offenders are partly responsible, along with the youth behaviour, for the current staggering number of cases entering the youth justice system. Police sources speak of pressures from parents or school authorities to charge youth. For example, Ontario locks up more kids than any other province; the number of 16 and 17-year-olds held by police has tripled during the last five years from 311 a day to 1,000 a day. The minor cases of the school yard fights, threats and petty thefts, including the failure to pay Toronto Transit fares, are making their way into court in greater numbers. One downtown Toronto youth court judge said he hears about ten cases a month of young people failing to pay transit fares. According to Dick Barnhorst, director of the provincial government's Office of Youth Justice, "there is the myth that the justice system can solve the crime problem, that the answer is more police, more court appearances, more custody. So we've done that, but now we have so many cases, the system is clogged, and when it's clogged, as it is now with both serious and minor matters, it makes it difficult to deal effectively with either kind of case."

Fear of the Sex Offender
While some in the public are prepared to acknowledge the social causes underlying youth crime, there appears to be zero sympathy for the sex offender. "Monsters" - "Predators" - "Animals", scream the tabloid headlines. They are the criminals people seem to fear the most. Pedophiles who lurk near playgrounds. Violent offenders who prey on women.

Police forces in some instances are identifying sex offenders upon their release. Some released offenders like Wray Brudeo are hounded by neighbours until they flee for the anonymity of a strange town where there are few familial supports and where nobody knew enough to take security measures against them.

Altruistic fear is extraordinarily high among people fear sex offenders. Sexual crimes - sexual abuse of children and particularly horrific murders such as what Paul Bernardo is charged with - are so abhorrent and inconceivable to most people that it seems quite impossible to see the humanity of the offender. Some conclude that only a "monster" could do such a thing.

Yet those "monsters" we fear have almost all been abused themselves. It is next to impossible to hear that point in the current climate of fear when the public looks at a sex offender and sees only a deviant, scary, sexual problem instead of a human being.

"Sex offender" is a category for a wide range of offenders from high risk to non-violent, encompassing offences from rape or pedophilia to voyeurism or exhibitionism. Frank Proporino, Director General of the Research and Statistics Branch, Correctional Services Canada (CSC), acknowledged that the public is inclined to write sexual offenders off, especially when it hears that there is no procedure to cure them. "Sexual offenders are part of our world. We can manage them, with some success," he said.

A recent national CSC forum on intervention programs for sexual offenders heard that most of the statistical information on sex offenders lacks sufficient number of subjects or there has not been a long enough monitoring period to be able to identify and target those likely to re-offend. The numbers generally suggest a recidivism rate of 43 to 45 per cent for those untreated but only 16 to 18 per cent for those treated. The confusion comes in trying to establish an accurate profile of which offender committing what types of offences and under what circumstances is most likely to reoffend.

A few faith communities and support groups from Alcoholic Anonymous in southern Ontario are currently helping a handful of released sex offenders in their long struggle to reintegrate in society, holding them accountable for their behaviour but trying to set labels aside.

Fear of the Offender from Another Race or Culture

"When we have fear of the unknown, we kill the unknown. That is a natural instinct."
Randall Tetlichi
Speaking to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

"Although we live together, it is not like we are living together. That is how I look at it."
Chief Jonas Sangris
Speaking to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

In the wake of the celebrated Just Desserts murder in Toronto, as police searched for three black suspects of Jamaican origin, Art Lymer, president of the Metro Toronto Police Association, said: "Are we getting imported crime? If we are, let's export it as soon as possible."

Some people think controlling immigration is the answer to crime.

But Tony Doob believes otherwise.

"By saying fear of crime, we make it invisible," Doob said. " People will speak in codes here. In Toronto, it has become okay to blame crime on Jamaicans. People in their minds make a distinction between Jamaicans and blacks, legitimizing prejudice."

Is Canada importing crime? Derrick Thomas, a senior Immigration department researcher, is the author of a report indicating that people born outside Canada are actually far less likely than native-born Canadians to commit crimes that land them in a penitentiary. "This study suggests that, so long as care is taken, these levels of immigration will not contribute to any disproportionate increase in serious crime in Canada." Foreign-born people make up 20.2 per cent of the Canadian population but represented only 11.9 per cent of those incarcerated or on conditional release in 1991. Government figures indicate that 18 of every 10,000 Caribbean-born immigrants in Canada wind up in penitentiary. Yet, in an Angus Reid Southam news poll of 1,508 Canadians taken in 1994, 51 per cent supported the view that certain racial or ethnocultural groups are more likely to be involved in crime than others.

There may well be a crime problem within the Jamaican community in Toronto and in ethnic communities elsewhere. Many of those communities' leaders acknowledge it to some extent, asking, though, that its proportion be shrunk to its realistic size, stripped of the prejudices and fears that colour the fear of crime issue.

According to Michael Petrunik and Joseph Manyoni, there is the new concern about the criminal stereotyping of visible minorities. Among the factors influencing this was the influx of "non-whites" to Canada's major cities, along with a perceived increase in certain kinds of crime as well as several prominent incidents where there have been allegations of racism on the part of the criminal justice system. Even the term "visible minority" lumps together many racial, ethnic and varying cultural groups. There are many socio-economic and generational differences among members of any one particular group, blacks included. Petrunik and Manyoni note: "Different visible minority communities may differ significantly not only in terms of types and levels of crime, but also fear of crime, attitudes to the justice system and approaches to dealing with crime."

At the core of the fear of crime problem here is the relationship of several racial groups with the police. Tim Rees acknowledged in a 1985 study that Canadian social and political institutions have not been able to respond easily and quickly to the changing multi-racial community they are meant to serve. There have been numerous cases of police and community tensions caused by specific incidents.

The police would like to keep race-crime statistics, at least partly, no doubt, to demonstrate the prevalence of crime in certain areas and within certain communities. Tony Doob acknowledged the validity of keeping those statistics for other good reasons but never to label a particular race as criminogenic. For example, race-crime statistics can be used to uncover discrimination in the treatment of people, determine what kinds of programs and personnel would be most useful, and identify groups coming into the system and highlight the need for prevention work in specific communities. But police-based official statistics do not do an adequate job of describing most crime and would not give an accurate profile of crime by a certain race.

John Lea provided an excellent description of the vicious cycle in which minority youth can get caught up in, especially in their dealings with police:

" The labelling of an ethnic group as crime-prone or even a large section of it such as young males, facilitates the adoption of general policing strategies oriented towards stopping blacks in those areas of the city with a significant black concentration, or in central shopping areas where any black youth becomes suspected of theft. The culmination of this process is a situation in which the labelling of an ethnic group as crime-prone rapidly leads to a disproportionate number of members of that group being stopped or arrested. This amplifies the original involvement of the group in crime. This magnification process, reflected in police arrest statistics, serves to act as a confirmation of police stereotypes of criminality, leading to further concentration of policing resources deployed against the group and further artificial magnification of its arrest rates. It gets compounded when youth act along the lines suggested by the explanation and/or use racism as a justification for whatever wrongdoing they commit."
There is silent and not so silent fear of anyone different from ourselves. Fear of crime in this respect is fear of difference. We fear anyone's unpredictability. We ask: where did they come from; what will they do. Fear becomes a way of reacting to a perceived negative. There is fear of people who look, talk and act differently from the majority. Studies repeatedly show that fear is high in neighbourhoods experiencing unexpected increases in "minority" populations. Jean-Paul Brodeur commented that fear of crime and feelings of insecurity get exploited in reaction to immigration in a neighbourhood. People feel their jobs are threatened and that housing prices will drop. Lagrange has reported on the anxiety and fear of being replaced by foreigners at places of work; finding oneself unemployed gets transferred to the stereotype of immigrants who are all criminal. Delinquency becomes the point where a feeling of vulnerability to many diverse aggressions is crystallized.

As well, these fears of difference intersect with fears of victimization so that someone who is assaulted by a person from another racial group can stereotype a whole race and become afraid of them all.

Criminal justice is a high priority issue for many Canadians who feel themselves marginalized or threatened as the composition of Canada changes towards more visible minorities. A report by Stan Lipinski of the Department of Justice noted: "Urban centres are facing considerable pressure with the movement of immigrants to major Canadian centres, increasing stress on community relations and services. As society becomes more complex, there is a growing diversity of cultural communities with differing values and beliefs that is playing a role in defining that vision."

Barry Thomas, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Police-Race Relations, referred to the disproportionate fears in the community compared to true risk and crime rates. What he worries about is the development of "sophisticated apartheid" in several major Canadian cities, what he defines as "apartheid without the signs". Thomas, himself an immigrant from South Africa, recognizes that some fears are quite normal; he referred to the normal consequences of a first attempt at integration for immigrants where those in Canada fear those who look and act differently. "This is a very old immigration story," he said. But where we fail as a country is in the second stage where true enculteration should happen. We haven't defined for immigrants what it is to be a Canadian. Some immigrants make it on this level. Some don't.... We have a choice. We can have a form of sophisticated apartheid as in New York, where blacks do their thing in one community and whites do theirs in another, with constant war at the border. Or we can negotiate peace now, before it's too late."

What is Influencing Fear of Crime in Canada?
This section assesses several of the more prominent influences in the evolution of fear of crime as an issue in this country.

The Media

"If it bleeds, it leads."
Canadian living in Florida commenting on local TV News

"No one has been arrested (a series of unsolved murders on the street)... raising fears that a killer could be sitting at the next table in the coffee shop."
Globe and Mail news story

There is an extraordinary temptation to jump on the bandwagon to denounce the media as the villains responsible for public fears about crime. The media does exert considerable influence, particularly with local media reporting local crime and the national and regional media providing a context and agenda for this issue. However, as with the rest of the fear of crime phenomenon reported in the literature, the connection between fears and what the media reports is more complex than many think.

(i) Some Helpful Background

Ruth Morris of Toronto is a Quaker and prison abolitionist who is interviewed by journalists periodically and happens also to be a media watcher. She reminds the public that there is no plot by the media to incite fears or a moral panic. "By presenting the mostly bad-news, unusual stories, they are doing their job," she said. "They are writing about the exceptional, for the usual is not news, and most people are interested in the unusual as news." We never see the headline: 99 of 100 planes landed safely today or All but One out on Prison Passes Return . Maybe we should have those stories but there are credible journalists whose experience tells them that "news" is the exceptional, the "out-of-ordinary" daily events. Yet, the reporting of the "out of the ordinary" certainly demands perspective and the occasional "reality check", surfacing now in more news and other media programs. "The Scandinavian press have been trained by their correctional system to include in every story about a parole violator committing an offence the fact that 75 per cent of parolees make it through parole without committing new offences," Mrs. Morris said. "They still cover the immediate story, but they include a corrective fact to balance it."

What is dangerous, though, is the mix of this thirst for news with the world of crime, great fodder for an insatiable pack of newshounds. Crime has more than its share of newsworthy items. Crime-reporting becomes susceptible to sensationalism and lazy journalism. It is not difficult to do crime stories; no more than a few phone calls or a film crew on assignment is needed for evening drama on the airwaves, sure to inform but to entertain as well.

(ii) The Media has a Significant But Not Overriding Influence

The media's influence is quite significant.

While there is some conflicting data, several studies reveal a clear connection between newspaper or other media coverage, and fear of crime. Homicide and other brutally violent crimes obviously illicit the most fear.

Fear also increases if crime appears to have been random and violent and if a local crime is given prominent coverage. The media can reduce complex matters to simple news accounts, with damaging results. According to Tony Doob, approximately 95 per cent of the public mentioned the media as a primary source of information (1987 study). Television is listed most often as a source of information about sentencing. "If the public is informed about something in a 37-second news story, it has to look to simple solutions for complex problems," he said.

Television puts the horror and pain of victims like Melanie Carpenter of Surrey into our living rooms on a daily basis.

Crime sells newspapers. So does fear. A 1991 study of the Toronto media determined that almost half of the news content pertained to deviance and crime-related topics.

The Media Monitor reported in the United States that in a single year, from 1992 to 1993, the number of crime/drug stories covered by the three major American networks doubled from 830 to 1,698. It is logical for people to conclude that there must be more crime if they see more crime reported on television.

In 1982, a series of attacks on women in Toronto led to a "moral panic" that was played out in the media. The media became the forum where interest groups, politicians, law enforcement agencies and others competed for publicity to articulate their own goals, positions and interests. Some would say the media manufactured the moral panic. Many more would agree at least that the media participated in it.

It is the media's influence on public perceptions of the extent of crime and violence that is noteworthy; there might be more break and enter crimes in higher income neighbourhoods but that is not the type of crime typically reported by the media, which prefers more violent crimes often in urban hot spots. Consequently, fears in the higher income neighbourhood may not be high or proportional to the actual crime rate in their own community but residents may fear travelling in those inner city areas and the residents from there may be more fearful, partly because of the news stories. A 1981 study revealed that newspapers may contribute to an unreasonably high fear of victimization from violent crimes as well as an unreasonably low concern with property crimes. Significantly, the authors of that report concluded that the media influence on public opinion of crime problems increases proportionately to the decrease of the individual's personal knowledge of the social conditions contributing to crime.

The media has an "anchoring effect" in its presentation of crime, according to Julian Roberts. By emphasizing the more serious crimes such as homicide, the news media appear to nudge up the perceived seriousness of other, actually less serious and unrelated offences. Roberts has done tests demonstrating that people will be more punitive of even a less serious case if they have read ten serious cases before turning to the other one. So the media helps to anchor the "ship of state" in the waters of violent crime which in fact are not the norm, detrimentally shaping perceptions of crime.

Studies of newspaper readership profile a high proportion of older people and those with occupations with higher income. Their fears of vulnerability are reinforced when they are given the message over and over again that people like themselves can and frequently do become victims of both property and personal crime.

The media influences setting the national agenda of crime, as well as affecting the public's concerns and knowledge of crime rates.

Having acknowledged all of the above, the media's influence is not overriding, and there are others who share the responsibility for what the media mirrors daily to a demanding public.

Julian Roberts said that studies that show direct links between coverage and fear of crime do not always reveal what the precise effect is. Attention has to be paid to the variables in each study. "The effect is not always a direct fear thing," he said. "It may increase concern or a desire for punishment but it is not certain to increase fear in every instance. Sometimes, people know the high profile case is exceptional." To that point, Tony Doob argued that coverage of the Bernardo case, once the suspect was arrested, likely does not further induce fear, not only because a suspect is behind bars but because people learn of the case's bizarre and exceptional nature. Most conclude they would not be at risk and that there are not many people out there doing what he and his wife were charged with doing. Much more likely to induce fear is front-page coverage of the recent Montreal murders of an elderly couple in their home by a trio of young teenagers who are accused of clubbing them to death with a baseball bat. The crime's randomness and brutality in a context of "ordinariness" cause fear.

The media cannot by themselves create out of nothing a sudden concern for an issue as broad as violence. What the media does, however, according to Jean-Paul Brodeur, is to select from within the field of violent crime particular types of deviant behaviour that have the potential for crystallizing public anxiety.

Is the media causing the emergence of violence as a public preoccupation or is it feeding on a concern which exists on its own? The answer is probably a bit of both, with the media both reflecting and creating public opinion. Brodeur recognizes an upward spiral where a social phenomenon and its representation by the media are mutually reinforcing each other. He added that it may be partly reasonable in the way that the media responds to a public demand for news of violence but that "they can be meeting this demand in an exploitative way through their sensationalization of violence."

As well, some people demand this type of coverage. People have a voyeuristic interest in horror, pain and death. There is this paradoxical denunciation of violence yet fascination with it. There was also some research indicating that the media's influence was felt more at the social and political level than in the daily lives of people.

(iii) Coverage of High Profile Incidents

The media's coverage of high profile incidents tends to leave a wound on the nation's psyche, particularly if there is little or no perspective offered. As Neil Boyd put it, "it's a mistake to react to a single incident and presume that things are so much worse than 10 minutes before the event occurred."

Saturation coverage still happening a week after the incident might make a public forget this is still one crime, not seven crimes for the seven days it has been in the press. Coverage of The Just Desserts Cafe shooting and the few drive-by shootings such as the one in Ottawa seem to have a lasting impact and they heighten the public's view that the menace is everywhere.

Although there are more responsible exceptions, most press coverage of these types of stories tends to cater to the public's fascination with the unusual crime. Such coverage can leave a distorted impression of the extent of the problem. As well, so much more media attention is paid to the crime than its causes.

The coverage tends to magnify the intensity of public concern. In the context of the Just Desserts Cafe murder, Christopher Dornan, an associate professor at Carleton University school of journalism and communication, acknowledged the danger that the media's handling of these incidents can lead to "an irrational hysteria, in which people believe that they are unsafe and believe that this sort of outrageous and appalling crime has indeed already become commonplace. And it scares them out of their wits.... You have to remember these things have a limited shelf life. If nothing else happens untoward of this order in the next week, it will be gone."

(iv) Race and Crime and the Media

The slippery slope of race and crime issues filter through to the media, with certain consequences for public fears. Peter Desbarats, dean of journalism at University of Western Ontario, noted that the media coverage of the Just Desserts murder was influenced by the fact that it involved a black suspect and a white victim in a middle class neighbourhood. He said expressions of cultural and racial bias by the predominantly white media may often be unconscious but they shape public opinion and exacerbate negative stereotypes. "Divisions in our society are becoming wider and deeper, and there has been a hardening of attitudes towards immigrants. It is now more socially acceptable to be racist than it was even five or six years ago."

Haroon Siddiqui, editorial page editor at the Toronto Star, said that the media has a myth making propensity toward immigrants and visible minorities which, in troubled economic times, contributes to a trend to make scapegoats of newcomers.

Blurring the reality between news and entertainment are the "pseudo-newscasts" and documentary formats evident in television programs like Hard Copy or A Current Affair. It is not known how much they augment fears. They tend to re-inforce myths and perceptions about crime, its offenders and victims.

Interpersonal Networks
People learn through personal experience, or because they have been told on good authority - especially the authority of friends, neighbours and others in their interpersonal networks - that bad things happen to people like them. Their everyday encounters encourage them to think they are strangers in their own neighbourhood.

Fear of crime appears to be worse in large cities and anywhere where people do not know their neighbour and don't know where they fit or where their support is. Julian Roberts gives an insightful example to illustrate the power people transfer to those informal and interpersonal circles in which we move and live. Roberts cited the prospective car buyer who after a thorough research of automobile companies, including reading every report on the ranking of cars based on insurance information and customer satisfaction, decides to buy a Volvo. He leans over his backyard fence to chat with his neighbour about the decision. The neighbour tells him he is crazy to buy a Volvo because he had one and it was a "lemon". "What do many of us do?" Roberts asked. "We throw out all the research and studies and buy another kind of car."

People do tend to give weight to their interpersonal networks, where they hear and observe so much about what is happening in the community or the neighbourhood. People have a large number of information sources to draw on besides the media, including their neighbours, fellow churchgoers or members of the clubs or associations they join. This is the place of real community news, stories and gossip. This is the place where people observe and comment on changes in the neighbourhood, who is staying and leaving, where kids gather. This is where complaints get passed on about loud music or noisy neighbours, where one hears third hand about a break and enter on the next street.

It is the immediacy and the intimacy of those networks that bring home the fear of crime.

If people are talking about crime which happened somewhere else, fear is not increased by the influence of this network. But if the talk is about local and neighbourhood crime, fear is pushed up; news about break and enter crimes accounted for greater escalation in fears than any other personal or household crimes covered by one survey. The "knowledge" of burglary victims is remarkable through these informal circles.

Eleanor Wach has written a book about the stories of crime victims that circulate and why people want to tell those stories. She found that people want to hear these "moral stories" and "cautionary tales". There is a therapeutic value in the story with trade-offs between teller and listener. On the one hand, the victim deals with the grief and fallout from the crime. Uninvolved third parties pass on the story out of curiosity and to relieve their own anxiety. But there can be a multiplier effect on fear.

However, there should not be undue emphasis placed on the power and ability of these informal conversations among citizens to intensify fear of crime. They do have an impact, but there is conflicting evidence about how significant it is.

Disorder and Incivility
The first chapter on the theories of fear of crime described the influence that disorder and incivilities have on crime and related fears. Wesley Skogan is a leading proponent of this school of thought that links disorder in cities to fear of crime and crime itself, with a cyclical effect produced because both physical and social disorders and incivilities become a predictor of people then withdrawing from the life of the community. This in turn leads to further community disintegration and freer reign for people who commit more crime.

Many of the aspects of disorder cannot be effectively policed because they are not covered by criminal laws. People gauge the wellness of a community and its neighbourhood area by various signals, including graffiti, disorderly conduct, noisy neighbours, accumulating trash, vagrancy, drug syringes in a park etc. As the declining social control is exploited by the criminal element, the level of safety and order continue to decline. Skogan and others found that disorder was more prevalent in poorer, less stable, minority neighbourhoods, where fear levels are also higher than the national average.

Disorders and incivilities are related intricately to other factors that combine to escalate fears; there is less frequent social interaction, lower community solidarity, less informal co operation among neighbours to prevent crime and less household crime prevention activity.

Often the very people with resources to be part of the solution leave the area or withdraw into a cocoon.

As people do withdraw and fears increase, there is less supervision and more of a sense of the community and its problems being out of control. Disorders can affect market forces and investment decisions about where, for example, bankers might loan money to clients to locate. An area can become stigmatized. Ross Hastings has explained that all these factors taken independently and together lead to further crime.

The removal of the disorders in order to reduce the feelings of fear and improve the quality of life appears to have an impact on people's perceptions of risk.

The Politics of Fear of Crime
In a speech to the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, Globe and Mail justice reporter Kirk Makin touched on the politics of fear of crime:

"... to most politicians, the votes lie in creating fear, not calm. The dividends are in demanding longer sentences and the curtailment of conditional release programs, not in leading a public debate on the shortcomings of prison and alternative punishments. The key question is whether people are responding to the issue itself of fear of crime or to the political issues. Paradoxical situations exist because politicians and representatives of professional crime-fighting agencies, especially police, are concerned about the problem, as well as the issue of crime. Since the assessment of police crime statistics is the primary technique used to evaluate the effectiveness of federal anti-crime programs, these statistics can be self-serving measures of organizational effectiveness and a peer index of the true incidence of crime."
Makin was not impugning Machiavelian motives to every politician and police officer; nevertheless, he highlights a disturbing element which Tony Doob has written about in a book on the portrayal of violence in the mass media. "It is dangerous, indeed, when three of the most powerful agents of community education - the police, political interests groups, and the media - benefit so directly and dramatically from the fear of crime in the community."

Fear-mongering and political posturing needlessly exacerbate those fears. Doob believes there are politicians who exploit fears either deliberately or by naive assumptions. The crime fighting rhetoric of some politicians can escalate moral panic when they go beyond representing legitimate concerns of their constituents in order to amplify the voice of emotion in the justice debate for their own political benefit. Crime pays, in votes. As well, many police may be warranted in lamenting dwindling resources to deal with crime - their jobs are dangerous, their frustrations are high, they periodically handle horrible human tragedy - but sometimes the heightened fear of crime gets used to translate into higher budgets, more manpower and more sophisticated equipment.

Elliott Leyton, in his Newfoundland study of a supposed crime wave, describes the pattern at work here: interest groups decry the terrible crime wave; they name the cause; they say they are the only ones who have the answer; they need more money for their budgets. "The language is always crisis. The violence card is the card they play," he said.

Andre Normandeau of Montreal cites other political implications of fear of crime. He thinks a major problem in policy making is the intentional ambiguity of the justice legislation promulgated, due to numerous compromises between often contradictory interests. In order to get more general support, the objectives have to be vaguer, the philosophy less explicit. So the political, financial and bureaucratic restrictions undermine the expectations for order, security and liberty. "Is it really not an imaginary hope of ours to allay the age-old fear of violent crime and the insecurity of men and women in every country, in every era?"

Jean-Paul Brodeur borrowed an analogy from a critique of media to note that politicians like the media both reflect and create public opinion. "It can be claimed, justly, that crime issues are blown out of all proportion by politicians who want to be elected by stressing the necessity for more law and order," he said. "However, this is only pushing back the question one more step. Why is it, we can ask, that politicians exploit certain issues, such as crime, and not others? One answer is that some issues reverberate more intensely in the minds of the voters because they are genuinely concerned about them, i.e. they have high salience."

There appear to be few politicians, police and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system who will tell the complete truth that no law can protect an individual or society. Fewer still want to remind the public of the vulnerability and risks inherent in the human condition.

"Politicians like quick fixes but there are none for the economy and there are none for crime," Tony Doob said.

Fear of Crime in the United States
The "war against crime" has been waged in the United States for over 30 years, dating as far back as the 1964 and 1968 presidential election campaigns. Yet it seems that in the past few years particularly, crime and fear of crime have gripped that whole nation. Crime increases. More people are locked up than anywhere in the western world. Fear of crime has been described as quite a unique and cancerous social malaise attacking the quality of life.

Is this a harbinger of what awaits Canada? Our fear of crime "experts" think not, although they recognize warning signals from our southern neighbour. However, those fears in so powerful and so near an ally in whose country many Canadians travel and have family networks can have repercussions on our own fear levels. A reality check is needed.

Tony Doob recalled a family gathering with relatives in Washington, D.C. where an evening outing was preceded by a lengthy conversation about where to eat based on safety considerations, including what number of cars would be needed, what parking space there would be and how far they would have to walk from the car to the restaurant.

"I don't hear people having that kind of conversation in Canada," he said.

Inner cities in the two countries, Toronto and Detroit for example, are dramatically different in people's sense of safety and mobility during the day and at night. The disorder and decline evident within many American urban centres have not reproduced itself here.

Julian Roberts acknowledges it may only be a difference of degree in terms of fears but he also recognizes profound, qualitative differences too. "There are differences in community building factors around attitudes to police and the prevalence of guns. In Canada, there seem to be constraining attitudes, a law-abiding mentality which is not there in the United States. Just look at the subways in Toronto. They are different experiences for commuters here than for people in most U.S. cities."

Indeed, guns and the issue of race relations are cited as the most formidable differences between the two countries, although there are community leaders in Canada who warn of escalating problems in these very areas. So far, though, Canada has been spared the widespread epidemic of violence evident in the United States where Holly Johnson notes that more than 20 states now have given citizens the right to conceal weapons. A study of victim surveys from twelve countries reported that the American rates of assault, robbery and burglary were not extraordinarily higher than those of other countries but that their level of gun use was much higher and their level of both gun and non-gun lethal violence far exceeded those of other industrialized societies.

Yet, in Canada, only three per cent of men and one per cent of women said they obtained a gun as a precautionary measure to protect themselves.

In the United States, young black men have between seven and 12 more chances of being killed by a gun than do white males. Over two-thirds of the prison population are non-white minorities. According to Jerome Miller, executive director of the National Center for Institutions and Alternatives, "now when we talk about building more prisons, when we talk about longer sentences, when we talk about throwing away the keys, when we talk about cracking down on violent offenders, everyone knows we are talking about blacks. And so the sky is the limit now."

One American study distinguished between fear and loathing with the latter being described as racial prejudice. Loathing was found to be a significant factor in gun ownership while fear was not. Vince Sacco said that "one can't understand anything south of the border, including education, health and crime, without the race factor."

Fear of Crime: Perceptions and Reality
(Editor's note: this chapter on perceptions is related to two other parts of this report, namely the section in the preceding chapter on the media and also the description of fear groups in chapter four. The chapter on fear groups, particularly, gives a good appreciation of people's "reality" and perceptions.)

"Last week's killing was a sad, solitary incident. Things have changed around here, but their reputation has stuck, and this won't make changing the image any easier.'
Rev. J. Francis Xavier
Commenting on the murder of a Montreal shopkeeper
January, 1994

"The figures of how few places in a large city account for so much of the homicides do not relieve the fears of those who live elsewhere.", commenting in an article TV Makes Us Neighbours of All
David J. Rothman
New York Times

Already this report has made several, explicit references to the effect of perceptions on fear of crime:
  • fear levels were higher among those who perceive their neighbourhood as having higher or escalating crime rates.

  • there was a small but measurable increase in perceived fear of victimization in the 1993 survey although there was no change in actual risks since 1988.

  • some fears are dismissed as irrational or exaggerated if they are thought to be affected by misperceptions.

There is the perception in Canada that we are not strict enough on criminals. There is the perception that social controls are deteriorating. Perceptions are crucial elements in one"s fear of crime.

Unquestionably, fear of crime is fundamentally affected by how Canadians perceive their personal worlds. How we see reality at times does not coincide with what reality is. But those perceptions in turn can become our reality and that is significant. For example, if someone perceives the world as unsafe, when in fact it is safe, or relatively safe, then that person feels and acts as if the world IS unsafe. This has profound consequences for one's life, for public opinion, for public fears and for demands on policy.

These are not neat categories, however, for perceptions not only slip into reality but reality slips into perceptions; for example, as quick as some people might be to dismiss the "misperceptions" about how threatened Canadians are, those "misperceptions" usually have some grounding in reality, unless we are dealing with absolute paranoia where a totally fictitious world has been constructed.

Perceptions are important for they run our lives. And perceptions are important because public confidence has always been a fundamental component of our justice system.

This subject is of significance to policy makers and academics who weigh the merits of spending dollars and research to fight crime or to fight perceptions about crime. The subject is complex and warrants a few, everyday examples as an entry point for the discussion.

Rick Linden told the story of crossing into the United States at the Manitoba border when his wife automatically locked the car doors. "North Dakota is not a dangerous place. It has a very low crime rate but because I guess she felt we were in the United States, she did it," Linden recalled. She was not at any great risk, so one might want to either dismiss her misperception or change it through the sharing of hard data about crime in North Dakota. Yet it is not that simple. Her precautionary measure took only a few seconds, probably made her feel better and, most important, in taking the precaution she did not expose herself to any other real risk of victimization through a false sense of security.

After the Just Desserts slaying in Toronto, Tony Doob was on an open line show attempting, through statistics and some common sense, to put perspective on this tragedy as a rare occurrence which did not make the city unsafe. An irate caller scolded him, saying he would understand those public fears better if he lived near the Just Desserts cafe. Doob continues the story:

"Well it just so happens that I do live a few blocks from that cafe. I told the caller that what I feared about my son going to eat at the Just Desserts restaurant now was not his being where this murder took place but taking his bike to get there because in fact he would have to cross a very busy intersection where there have been several accidents."
His fear about the traffic was grounded in real risk. Crossing the street was really dangerous. Another murder at the Just Desserts Cafe in the next week would be more in the realm of lightning striking twice.

A third and final story raises yet another way in which perceptions and reality intersect. Rick Linden heard a Canadian Armed Forces general recall his experience in Rwanda where the internecine, tribal warfare between Hutu and Tutsi soldiers included enormous fear mongering. A Hutu-controlled radio station was spreading false stories that Hutus returning to Rwanda after the war were being slaughtered by the Tutsi soldiers. The purpose of the stories was to keep Hutus in a neighbouring country in the refugee camps in order to organize for an assault to overthrow the Tutsi government. The Canadian peacekeeper said it was a classic case of having to address the misperception about Hutu safety in Rwanda. But, and it is a big but, one had to guarantee first that any fear-reduction program through correcting misperceptions indeed did not put Hutus at risk.

These stories set the stage for an assessment of the perception/reality issue.

(i) What Language to Use

The research literature and media files reveal very interesting language people use to describe the seeming chasm between perceptions and reality. Fear of crime gets distinguished as "rational" or "irrational", "reasonable" or "unreasonable", "misguided" or "exaggerated".

These are well-meaning attempts by academics or commentators to distinguish between fear that is grounded on real risk of victimization as opposed to fear in which one is not all that vulnerable. As insightful as those terms may be to give a theoretical framework to the issue, they are neither helpful to or respectful of the people who are afraid. Fear as an emotion should never be dismissed as irrational or factually unfounded. On the other hand, fear as a state of being may well be discussed and assessed on a rational level.

Tony Doob is one academic who does not like the terms often used in this discussion. Even those so-called 'irrational' or 'unreasonable' fears are plausible and we must deal with them.

"Take the example of the woman who checks out the back seat every time she approaches her car. She may not really be at risk but that woman has read all the stories on this and seen all the movies where it does in fact happen. There is the frequent image of underground parking lots. Why not check it out and ease her mind, much like I check if I left the stove on even though I am sure I didn't. It's a bit demeaning to women to say her fears are unreasonable. Sure she may be more vulnerable at home or on a date or at a bar but it is fairly rational also to have fear related to dark places, cars and nights. This fear is real to her."
Doob's point is significant. Even misperceptions contain plausible fears, in other words real and legitimate fears for that individual, and should not be dismissed. Sound principles of adult education and community development would reach the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons, about what to do about those misperceptions. Education or change can happen only through a process which starts where people are at and respects that place without hastily dismissing it as a misperception.

(ii) Does Canada Have a Problem with Misperception about Crime?

Much energy is expended on the debate about whether fears of crime are founded or unfounded, whether they are or are not based on actual fact or experience but more on impressions of danger or a mistrust of strangers.

On the surface, there appear to be conflicting data about the public's ability to appreciate how difficult and complex the crime problem is. On the one hand, in a 1993 Environics poll asking people to rank a series of issues in terms of solvability, crime was placed third from the bottom, just above ending poverty and cutting the federal deficit. But that seemingly sophisticated assessment that there are no easy answers about crime seems to be lost as people weigh in with somewhat, simple solutions to enormously complex problems.

Julian Roberts has a theory about why this is so. He recognizes that crime is no less complicated an issue than figuring out the factions in Bosnia or all the pressures on the economy. Yet he also notices that everyone seems to have an opinion and a solution about crime. "For a lot of people, crime is perceived as a morality play. It is about good and evil, with a victim, an offender and an offence. And everyone as a child or parent or an employee in the work force has had to deal with bad behaviour and how to stop it. We all know or think we know what works. Yet crime which we speak of in such simple terms is so complex. The criminal justice system is so complex with so many inherent contradictions. It is difficult even for a rational, competent person to understand."

For sure, the perceptions' picture is complex. A Justice Department report in 1994 noted that 85 per cent of Canadians perceived an increase in the amount of violent crime in the country over the past few years yet only one per cent of Canadians identify crime or violence or justice related issues as the most serious or pressing issue facing the country. They were strongly concerned about what they perceived to be increased levels of crime in this country but they tended to view their own neighbourhoods as safe places in which to live. There appears to be a subtle distinction between one's fears and one's concerns.

This also leads to a crucial truth about perceptions of crime. Perceptions are rooted in the real life situations which people find themselves in; Doob is intrigued that very thoughtful colleagues of his who, after assessing the statistics which point to Canada being a safe place, say: "well, that can't be because I know four people on my street who have bought burglar alarms". Indeed, they may have bought burglar alarms, but to assuage fears or for reasons quite independent of crime rates. People's reference point is always their lived experience and the local scene. National data or even local, city data have to be balanced alongside a person's own knowledge and experience in their actual neighbourhood or the community in which they live.

(iii) The Role of Statistics and their Limitations

Getting into the debate on statistics about crime rates is a little like swimming in shark infested waters.

Figures about crime might reassure the public or point to areas of concern that should be addressed. But is it not a given that people believe one can manipulate statistics to prove anything? A University of Alberta study concluded that "the truth is somewhere in between. Statistics are both accurate and useful, but criminal statistics are subject to many influences that make interpretation difficult. Pressures influence gathering and reporting. Police cannot respond to or record all crime. Information gets handled differently in different areas. Increases or decreases can be products of the reporting system too. So they are an imperfect measure of criminal or violent behaviour but they are a good measure of societal response to crime."

The furore which tends to follow the release of crime rates and victimization survey data increases public confusion, thereby increasing anxiety. Jean-Paul Brodeur has noted that keeping crime statistics in the news and the ensuing debate over the statistics over-dramatize the release of the crime data which then becomes the target of fierce denunciations from opposing sides. "My hypothesis is that such heightened visibility of crime statistics and the highly emotional climate in which they are published would tend to aggravate public feelings of insecurity and give a much higher profile to the issue of violence," he said.

However, statistics or hard data are a fundamental part of any rational discussion; a Calgary study showed that people who are given accurate information about violent crime are less fearful than those who are not. Statistics have an important place in the national dialogue and in the overall response to public fears.

But one should not respond to fears of crime primarily or exclusively by statistics.

The dangers with statistics have been well documented.

It has been demonstrated through victimization surveys that official crime rates substantially underestimate the magnitude of the problem, e.g. violence against women, children and the elderly. Those surveys show that less than half of all crimes are ever reported to the police and, in addition, some crimes are less likely to be reported than others, e.g. less than one in ten sexual assaults according to the most recent data. Different community groups may also be more or less likely to report.

Statistics become weapons as well in the hands of certain interest groups. Statistics may be used to prove an ethnic or cultural group is criminogenic or that in those cultures violence is accepted. Statistics may be invoked to justify a racist remark that women and men in a particular culture are more violent or inferior. Linda MacLeod comments on the use of statistics: "We are playing with fire, we are playing with a loaded weapon, and this weapon must be used extremely carefully, sensitively and responsibly." Certainly there will be interest groups who manipulate statistics by using them for their agenda.

But even worse, trying to ascertain accurately the situation in order to evaluate crime trends, may have profoundly negative consequences. It can lead to the development of a false sense of security. Or it can needlessly frighten individuals and make people conclude that society is deteriorating rapidly while in fact people are simply better informed and resolved to act.

This underscores the importance of fully understanding the true significance of the statistics and adopting methods of assessing them more accurately.

Doob has a chart on his wall illustrating the number of youths aged 12 to 17 who were accused of a homicide offence between 1974 and 1994. Over the 20-year period, there are considerable fluctuations in the number of homicides but overall, from the start to the finish, there is a consistency indicating there has not been any dramatic increase in the number of murders by young offenders.

Yet this chart and those statistics are a landmine in the debate on youth justice because, in Doob's own words, the graph depicts a "sawtooth curve" where there is enormous variability with peaks and valleys for many of the years. Depending on one's agenda, citing a particular year or showing a trend by starting a year earlier or later than another, the truth gets "fudged". For example, taking the years 1985 and 1993, the murder rate by youth "declined sharply" from 57 to 35. Stepping back one year at both ends, the murder rate "soared" from 36 to 58. One can pick any number and year to show what one wants to prove. "It becomes incredibly deceptive," Doob said. "As soon as you hear anyone quoting between two years, that should set off alarms."

Statistics have a place in showing an overall trend and explaining variations. They can give the big picture. They have a place, for example, in telling Canadians that there is not a new generation of youth killing people in epidemic proportions or any more than what has been happening in Canada in the past 20 years. That is important in itself, but it is also of little relevance to the victims or the community reeling in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy; and it is of little relevance to a Canadian who is mad that "kids are getting away with murder". That Canadian may need a forum to vent his emotions, and only much later in that forum or elselwhere may he or she be ready to hear the statistics.

Statistics don't stop people from worrying.

Statistics seldom convince anyone they are safe. Doob is convinced, though, that statistics are relevant, especially in challenging those who would mis-use statistics to advance their own agenda. He jumps into the fray every time he hears a media report start with the phrase, "because crime rates are increasing". There is not an overall increase in crime but only in certain areas. Distinctions must be made and Doob challenges everyone to make them.

Julian Roberts has conducted studies indicating that people make more enlightened responses if they have the facts of a case. For example, he has tested individuals giving one group a quite superficial report of a crime and another sample the details of the facts of the case. Those in the latter group tended to support the actual sentence given by the court while the first group was more punitive. However, for quite other reasons, there is a limit on the impact of statistics in changing perceptions because, as Roberts observed, for any issue there will always be a bedrock of opinion that is ideologically committed to another position. Take, for example, the debate whether those who receive a 25-year prison sentence should be eligible for a judicial review for parole at 15 years into their sentence. Roberts explained that a segment of the population opposed to those reviews may be open to examining data about the individuals represented by those cases but another segment would be opposed on any grounds and likely would not be amenable to any statistics.

(iv)Some Preliminary Conclusions on Perceptions

Perceptions and reality are not two opposite poles. However, learning from the Rwanda example, there may be a few instances where it is warranted to challenge perceptions quite apart from dealing with fear of danger and/or fear of crime.

A perception of an individual or community deserves respect, if not always agreement. It makes little sense to dismiss or discount those perceptions, or to deal with them exclusively by referring to statistics.

There is a need to focus on perceptions particularly in the wake of a high profile incident which is not in keeping with normal types of crime. Some assessment of perceptions are particularly important for those driven by altruistic fears or an escalating moral panic.

Canadians need instruction in understanding and interpreting statistics related to crime, as well as their reliability and limitations. Attention should be paid to ways to defuse the charged climate that accompanies the release of crime statistics, or to release the information in ways where the public also learns more about the meaning of the statistics at the same time.

Certainly, statistics have their place in the response to fear of crime. Canadians convinced the country is lenient with offenders need to know that Canada has the second highest incarceration rate in the western world. However, that data may not move an individual who is driven by ideology or who would benefit much more from an ongoing community process and forum to make one's views known and to check out perceptions with others.

Part of the "perception" problem is the too restricted way in which we view crime. Vince Sacco mentioned it is harder to craft solutions when there is only one conceptualization of a problem. "We don't have a pro-crime lobby so everyone is against crime and it tends to invoke only one emotional response in a way that invites demagoguery and permits no opposition," he explained. "If we could see the problem of crime in more than one way, construct it differently perhaps, we could get at more solutions."

As Stan Lipinski has concluded, "while coming to grips with people's perceptions and opinions with respect to deeply-held beliefs about crime will not be easy, the alternatives will impose prohibitively higher financial burdens on a criminal justice system that can ill afford them."

Other Significant Issues
Fear of Crime in Quebec
Again, our church and criminal justice networks in Quebec in recent years have confirmed the distinct way in which fear of crime is experienced in that province. People couldn't always explain the difference but almost all confirmed that, to a large extent, Quebecers did not get caught up in the phenomenon of fear of crime quite the same as the rest of Canada.

There is substantial evidence to back this, according to Jean-Paul Brodeur. A recent government decision to close eight jails for budgetary reasons elicited no outcry or expression of fears. The demand to make prisoners serve their full 25-year, "life" term elsewhere in Canada is non-existent in the province. The province has hardly ever made a dangerous offender application unlike every other jurisdiction. There is high satisfaction with Quebec's juvenile justice legislation that preceded the passage of the Young Offenders Act and which appears to be strongly on the side of child protection as opposed to punishment.. (It will be revealing to monitor the response and fears after the savage murder of a retired Anglican priest and his wife by three young teenagers in Montreal early this April.)

"It seems in so many ways, it is tame compared to elsewhere with respect to how much fear of crime dominates or occupies the public concern," commented Brodeur.

Brodeur does not fully know the reasons for this. He does not notice the same "political correctness echo chamber" that crime and fear of crime reverberate through in English Canada.

Marie Beemans, a long-time volunteer to prisoners who moves back and forth comfortably in the French Canadian and English Canadian worlds, has sensed that the Quebec media, generally speaking, has more positive stories related to prisons, parole and rehabilitation.

There are no provincial polls published to confirm the level of fear although Brodeur is aware of some private polls done to track people's view of independence which show that crime is well behind the public deficit as the number one concern of the public. Yet, he has also seen another quite recent poll indicating concern about crime is higher than earlier thought.

Brodeur thinks the politics of fear and resentment so evident in the United States may catch up to Quebec. A concrete fear along with great interest for many residents is the motorcycle gangs and their drug trade. "The gang's headquarters are in Sorel. People in Sorel aren't afraid of them but the rest of Quebec is," he said. "It illustrates the need to track different fears for different crimes and criminals in different areas. People are afraid of some offenders but not all."

Does Fear of Crime Make People More Punitive
Canadian research has found that more fearful Canadians are not more punitive but that reducing fear of crime does not make them less punitive, especially in the case of violent crimes. A significant study of the public by Marc Ouimet in 1991 did not confirm the seemingly logical assumption that fear of crime would make someone demand more punishment. However, the same study which also interviewed over 200 court practioners determined there is still an indirect effect on more punitive sanctions because judges sometimes base longer prison sentences on the notion that the public fears crime and is demanding those types of sentences. The influence of this misperception was particularly the case for less serious cases as judges decided whether custody was appropriate and how long the sentence should be.

A telephone interview with almost 500 Calgary residents in 1987 discovered that those who receive accurate information about violent crime are significantly less fearful but those lower fear levels did not translate into less punitive attitudes. The conclusion was that punitive attitudes have less to do with fears than with people's attitudes and perceptions about violent crime.

Demographic variables are a factor here. Women are more fearful but tend to be less punitive. The elderly become more punitive but that may be related to a wide-ranging vulnerability they feel and a sgtronger allegiance to traditional criminal justice institutions.

While the measure of fear generally does not predict the measure of punitiveness, Vince Sacco cautioned that the mixture of several emotions, i.e. anger or frustration with fear, might indeed make someone more punitive.

Responding to Fear of Crime
When the decision is made to do something about fear of crime in a community or in an entire country for that matter, the question left begging is what to do, and who does it.

There has been massive government and community expenditures on crime prevention programs that usually include the goal of reducing people's fears or insecurities related to crime. This last section of the report now summarizes those approaches, with an evaluation of their success specifically in terms of what their impact is on fear of crime. The report will also pull together the recommendations from the academic experts and community leaders who were consulted, as we begin to design the elements of a more effective way to deal with those fears.

Some General Observations
It is as important to know what not to do in responding to fear of crime as to decide what to do. Justice Minister Allan Rock has said repeatedly that his government does not want to push Canada into a cycle where people believe they have to acquire a weapon for protection or in other ways to withdraw from full participation in society and their communities. United States documentation confirms that most of these weapons are then used against the person who bought them or they are stolen and used in a criminal offence. Precautions which tend to isolate or alienate an individual within a community can worsen the fears.

It is also irresponsible to tell people not to be afraid when there is a risk. Where fear is justifiable because of genuine danger, it is taken away at great peril. One's fear of crime should be at a level appropriate to a threat. A person can more accurately assess one's risk and then live accordingly. A program whose exclusive goal is the reduction of fear might stand on its own in situations where fears are not grounded in actual personal risk in any way, shape or form.

There is no value in hyping fear either, although some programs induce it as a by-product in order to encourage people to take safety precautions. Research confirms only limited, short term, positive effects through programs which do this. Keeping people afraid for a long period of time has other negative consequences.

Elizabeth Stanko has suggested that it is important to approach fear of crime from the perspective that violence is a norm in our lives and something we need to deal with; modern social conditions make danger a given. This view is not intended as approval of the violence or ignoring the work necessary to overcome the social conditions which cause violence. What she is doing is setting some clear boundaries about what is manageable about fear of crime. What is important is how we negotiate the daily threat and experience of danger.

Risk-Avoidance and Risk-Management Behaviours for Individuals and Groups

To allay our fears, we have been inundated with advice and strategies on ways to avoid being targets for crime.

Keeping violence and crime at bay is an active process, something which many have made a routine part of every day in big and small ways.

Those afraid of violence from a partner or acquaintance often monitor a person's behaviour, on the lookout for and assessing the warning signs of violence.

When going away, people might take numerous precautions to create the impression that the house is occupied. This eases people's anxiety and in many cases provides enough protection for one's property. And there are countless other safety features which have become part and parcel of everyday life - several universities now provide escort services for females to get to their campus residence or car in a parking lot, gasoline stations and convenience stores keep only a small amount of cash in the register over night, transit companies demand exact fares, libraries and stores put beeper codes on books and articles, video surveillance is in almost every store. The airport passenger screening measures are a way of life now, years after they were introduced specifically to target hijacking of airplanes. All of these measures impact on fears by targeting crime-conducive situations.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada has a booklet summarizing various crime prevention schemes, many which are intended to reduce fear of crime:
Changing the Physical Environment:
Police department environmental design review, home security surveys, improved street lighting, changing traffic patterns, police directional aids, neighbourhood clean up, installing emergency telephones, crime prevention programs for businesses.

Working within the Criminal Justice System:
Victimization surveys, street observation, police mini-stations, neighbourhood beats, Operation Identification, court watch, crime reporting projects, police and community boards, community service officers, home security surveys.

Direct Activities for Residents:
Block clubs, citizen patrols, radio patrols, escort services, block houses, Operation Identification, self defence courses.

Those interested in a more thorough review and evaluation of many Canadian examples of these approaches should contact Rick Linden of the University of Manitoba. Here are a few general comments on each approach.

(i) Changing the Physical Environment

People's vulnerability must be assessed accurately at the outset. This has been done through household safety and security surveys which might measure resident victimization, fear of crime and behaviour modification. These programs are aimed primarily at protecting residents from outsiders and are very limited when the primary threat is from someone who is known.

Fear can be heightened by several site-specific cues: there may be undue risk for the pedestrian due to inadequate lighting, blocked escape for the victim or concealment for an offender. Those fears are specifically related to a site where the implementation of certain safety measures is quite possible.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) had an excellent safety record for its commuters although many women reported they were afraid to ride the subway. The TTC installed closed circuit monitoring of the subway station platforms and marked the place on the platform where the car which has a security guard stops. "I understand women routinely use this area and while in one way it is the most simple of measures it seems to have improved the quality of life without turning up the dial of the criminal justice system," Tony Doob commented.

However, physical factors alone cannot be relied on to preserve local order and feelings of security. They may have reduced risk and lowered the level of insecurities for certain types of crime, some of the time, and for some individuals. They are much more limited in reducing fears related to serious violence and crime.

(ii) The Example of Community Policing as an Approach within the Criminal Justice System

The public wants police to be visible in the community. Community policing is intended to reduce people's fears especially through increased contact with the police. This eases insecurities although it may or may not impact greatly on crime rates, and indeed may even be undermined in communities where there have been tense relations between the police and ethnocultural communities. As well, there is always the prospect that crime is being displaced in a number of ways rather than being deterred by community policing.

Community policing also appears to have some effect on reducing disorders and incivilities which would then impact on fears. Foot patrols seem to be effective in reducing fear of crime. They foster positive attitudes about the police and apparently impact more on feelings of insecurity rather than concrete fears of crime. Yet those feelings of insecurity warrant attention too for they can weaken informal social controls and contribute to an increase in crime.

Of course, community policing can mean a lot or practically nothing depending whether it is a superficial or genuine expression of police and citizen partnership empowering the entire community to deal with the problem of crime and fear of crime.

Jean-Paul Brodeur is currently writing a report on community policing in Canada, citing

"mixed results, some encouraging yet somewhat discouraging evaluation". Community policing works better in communities which need it less.

iii) The Example of the Neighbourhood Watch Program as a Direct Activity for Residents

Neighbourhood Watch programs had a logical ring to them. They were intended to encourage a sense of citizen concern for the community, primarily by overcoming social isolation and distrust through bringing people together in a common purpose. It was known that fear of crime is lower in neighbourhoods where residents feel more committed, more in control of their environment and where the neighbourhood is more socially cohesive.

But Neighbourhood Watch is getting a poor report card of late for many reasons. There is a sense that there needs to be so much more community building than simply making neighbours aware of unusual activity in the area. Many participating neighbourhoods had no sense of community in the first place.

As well, anxiety can even go up initially as people learn how extensive crime is or its potential problems are for the community.

Fear of crime is definitely lower in neighbourhoods where residents feel more responsibility and control over what happens in the area. Finding the best way to achieve this remains the challenge.

In Rick Linden's view, almost all of the crime prevention programs have suffered from poor planning and inadequate, ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

The Recommendations

The literature and consultations with academics referred over and over again to some fundamental principles to remember in any fear of crime program.

"Specific and Concrete" works better every time!

The first chapter explained that "public fear of crime" is a misleading expression because the burden of fear does not fall equally on everyone's shoulders. Effective, fear-reducing programs are contingent on identifying who is afraid of what in which circumstances and acting accordingly in the most concrete ways. For example, several Winnipeg senior citizens were anxious about encountering youth in front of a medical centre. Their appointments were switched to mid morning when the students were in school. There is a world of difference in knowing only that seniors fear youth in Winnipeg and in determining in a particular neighbourhood that seniors are afraid of waiting for the bus at particular bus stops between two high schools at 4 o'clock when students get out of school. Something more easily can be done in the latter instance, including programs where the seniors and students might meet on each other's "turf". There is the need to be attentive to local conditions that prevail in specific situations.

Don't Reinvent the Wheel!

It is crucial that existing clubs, churches and a host of organizations become interested in the issue of fear of crime and its specific relevance to their mandates. Canada does not need another organization to be created to deal with this issue. Crime prevention and reducing fear of crime need to be a permanent feature in their mission and agenda. The motivation for individuals to get involved is to protect their families and their property as well as the desire to make our communities better places in which to live.

But Do Re-Invent Communities!

Responding to fear of crime is all about systematic encouragement of neighbourhood building, weaving solidarity networks and promoting a self-help mood within communities.

Rather than starting with the traditional assessment of a community's needs, there is much sense in approaching the problem first by mapping a community's assets. A community needs to do an inventory of assets, household by household, building by building, block by block. John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight explain that the community inventory will discover "a vast and often surprising array of individual talents and productive skills. Everyone is gifted, including and especially those marginalized because they are too old, or too young, or too poor." The inventory and community partnership should include local institutions, like businesses and schools, parks, hospitals, community colleges, libraries, social service agencies, citizen associations, churches, block clubs and cultural groups, as well as the gifts of individuals.

Build on Community Identification and Participation

Rick Linden has described community as a collection of people with common interests and concerns whether or not they share a common geographical area. Communities may be natural in origin or created through the concerted organizational efforts of individuals. The "community" may be an association of pharmacists or all the people who use the place where the crime and problem exist.

Community ownership of these programs is not going to work unless, in Linden's words "the practioner of crime prevention involves the community early in the planning process and has respect for its views, priorities and ability to mobilize resources." Trust the community members. They know what measures and actions can help to make them feel safer. They need practitioners to play an advisory and legitimizing role bringing together groups and facilitating the process and journey.

Community surveys can be used to supplement official crime analysis data in identifying crime and related problems. Citizens' perceptions of problems in the neighbourhood along with any neighbourhood-based, community victimization data help inform decisions where to implement prevention programs. People identify the offences they believe are most common in their neighbourhoods, the ones they are most afraid of, and those that cause them to take precautions. This is important, preliminary work because the best co-operation usually comes from those who are concerned about these offences. "The surveys typically measure the fear and concern of members of the community," Linden said. The study of a neighbourhood can determine whether or not it looks orderly. If graffiti, garbage, broken windows and poorly tended yards are common, it is likely that a substantial effort will have to be made to help residents regain control of their community.

To initiate a truly community-based program, it will be necessary to cross some administrative boundaries, including inter-ministry co-operation at one level of government or between different governments.

Start Where People Are At! Figure Out What Can Be Done

Remember that almost all fears are plausible, regardless of whether people are at actual risk. Deal with the fears and provide a process and forum for all that those fears communicate. Find out what people are afraid of and get people talking to one another about this. A local community can be helped in gathering detailed information regarding the levels and social distribution of fear. Assess the local environment for physical and social disorder. Weave into the discussion the information and resources they need along with the "bigger picture" in the region or country which may be required for perspective. Determine if risks can be reduced or managed. Figure out how to make people reach a certain comfort level with respect to fears which linger.

Bring Together the Groups Who Fear Each Other

Responding to fear of crime includes the challenge of facilitating a dialogue among people who are different and who, consequently, might fear one another.

Men and women need to come together to talk about their experiences of violence and danger. Men who have made choices about non-violent behaviour and care about the violence perpetrated against women can still be astounded at the extent of women's fears and precautions. Women need to find ways to share this reality with men and men must find a way to learn and share with other men about the reality of violence and how to negotiate danger in the lives of both genders.

The elderly and young people need to meet so that fears and stereotypes may begin to fall to the ground. The elderly are an enormously, untapped wealth of wisdom and experience for future generations of Canadians. Many are surrogate grandparents and mentors waiting to be introduced to young people.

People from different races, cultures, sexual orientation and a host of other divisive factors should meet to address their fear of difference. In the words of Theresa Holizki, Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, "cross-cultural training is a proven way to eliminate fear of difference and lack of knowledge. It increases people's racial and cultural sensitivity and teaches us to accept the differences among us. When we explore and learn about other cultures, about negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, about what makes culture, heritage and race different, we will be able to co-operate and communicate more effectively with culturally diverse individuals and communities. In the process we learn too that different isn't better. It isn't worse. It is merely different."

Give a Primary Place for Women's Experience of Fear of Crime

Responding to fear of crime should embrace the needs expressed by women, relying substantially on women's testimonies of what makes them feel safe. Fear of crime has to address the somewhat simple myths of the safe home and the dangerous stranger. Local women's leadership can be encouraged and supported in their creation of programs and policies which reduce fear, victimization and vulnerability.

Tap into the Everyday Experiences of People. There is Wisdom Here!

People need to identify and have opportunities created to share their everyday experiences in negotiating safety. People's way of understanding danger is complex and highly private, grounded in a lifetime of experience. Somehow, we need to tap this wisdom. In safe environments, we need to hear what those strategies are. We need communities to dialogue and anguish together about what are prudent and reasonable rules of self-restriction and what is unreasonable or demeaning to individuals.

We Need More Research about Fear of Crime's Practical Elements

There is still precious little, in-depth knowledge of exactly what people fear and why and what they do about it in everyday life. This means taking the research to where people are living, beyond the surveys. Vince Sacco identified research areas that still require attention: how fear varies across situational contexts; how people talk about and express their fears; the role of interpersonal communication in the transmission of fear; the role of altruistic fear; the impact of parental socialization about danger; and fear of crime and its relationship to social disorder.

These are only the initial ideas and generally sketched recommendations from the consultations and review of literature. There needs to be a more thorough analysis of the report's findings to determine how to address the issue of fear of crime in any specific community.

Canadians want to be safe. It is a fundamental human need and a human right. The fact is that many Canadians are safe, although some do not know it or act and live as if they do not know it. Yet too many Canadians are not safe. Fear of crime, in all its countless expressions and masks which this report has identified, violates that basic necessity of safety. Responding to the fear of crime reclaims the path to healthier, safer communities.

Appendix A
How is Fear of Crime Measured?
How fear of crime is measured is critical in the determination and assessments of levels of fear in the country and who is most afraid. Yet the measurement of fear of crime is always somewhat removed from the scene of the crime. There are no fear monitors or fear index to apply to someone at the time he or she is being robbed or assaulted. Researchers are not there to do any physiological check-up of blood pressure, heartbeat or dryness of mouth etc.

Surveys and Polls
Fear of crime is measured, then, through a variety of surveys and polls in a variety of ways, determining the level of fear associated with walking alone in one's neighbourhood at night or being home alone, or the fear of becoming a victim of crime in general or a victim of a very specific crime, and about the use of measures to protect oneself and one's property. So, for example, in the 1983 Vancouver Urban Survey, Vince Sacco helped design typical fear questions such as "How safe do you or would you feel walking alone in your neighbourhood after dark?" The choices for respondents were: Very Safe, Somewhat Safe, Somewhat Unsafe or Very Unsafe. There are limitations to this type of question because it tends to uncover only a generic fear of crime. Yet the "walking alone in your neighbourhood at night" question happens to be one of the most widely used barometers to measure fear of crime.

Most surveys provide a sense of the extent to which people worry about becoming a victim and the anxiety they feel about their personal safety in various situations.

The General Social Survey is conducted every five years and includes a sample of 10,000 telephone interviews with Canadians aged 15 years and older. Several questions on fears and worries are included.

The 1993 Violence Against Women Survey was historic in its scope, intending to contextualize women's fears related to their experiences since the age of sixteen. A target population of 15,000 women aged 18 years and older was contacted to measure the extent to which women worry about their personal safety in everyday situations, the extent to which fear imposes limits on their opportunities and freedom of movement, and how they manage threats to their safety in their daily lives. The Violence Against Women Survey tried to determine the levels of fear in everyday situations, how often the respondent is in each situation and what situations she might avoid because of fear for her safety. So, for example, respondents were asked how safe they felt while waiting for or using public transportation after dark, how often they used it, and if they felt safer, would they use it in the future. These types of questions prevent a skewing of data caused when a high percentage of the population who are afraid of using public transportation in fact never use it on a regular basis.

Victimization surveys are also significant, providing a way of looking at crime from the perspective of individual victims. They describe what has happened to individual Canadians and they describe the way in which people respond to their victimization experiences. Because many crimes are not reported to the police for a variety of reasons, victimization surveys do a better job of capturing people's personal experience with crime. Victimization surveys interview a sample of the population about their experiences with crime during a specific period of time, usually the 12 months prior to the survey.

The distinction has been made between concrete and formless or diffused fears. Concrete fears are measured with a question of how respondents rated the chances of certain events happening to them in the future, e.g. break and enter or assault. Formless fear is measured by asking people how they felt about walking alone in the neighbourhood during the day or after dark.

So once someone responds that they are afraid of walking alone at night in their neighbourhood or being alone in their home, they can then be asked why they feel this way. Answers can range from a very general worry about the possibility of being a victim of crime to becoming victims of specific crimes. Marc Ouimet contends that "the concrete fear should provide a more accurate assessment of people's fear of crime than the generic measure, since the latter may be associated with a general mental state of the individual rather than a conscious assessment of a real danger of crime". Yet, it seems that those diffused fears still need to be addressed.

Another way to track fear is to go beyond measures of pesonal fear and risk assessments to have people estimate the crime rates in a neighbourhood. Respondents are asked to imagine a sample of one hundred people living in their area. The question posed is: how many of those do you think have been or will be victims this year of the following specific crimes.... Increased estimates in the amount of crime will suggest an increased level of fear and can then be compared to actual crime rates.

Vince Sacco pointed out that the research has not always been precise in determining what people mean by fear of crime. Take for example the fear related to your house being burglarized. Fear is a function both of the likelihood of the break and enter happening and the seriousness of its consequences. If a crime is likely to happen, and the crime is serious, fear will be higher. People know murder is very serious but the likelihood of any Canadian being murdered is extremely low. So one's fear of being murdered may not be high. The chances of getting a family bicycle stolen are much greater but the consequences are not all that serious. Consequently, one's fear of having a bike stolen may well be minimal. Many women have a high fear of sexual danger based on both factors of likelihood and seriousness. Because different people may have different understandings of what is serious, surveys can also ask participants whether, if certain crimes happened to them, they would consider them serious.

An innovative Montreal project of a high and low crime neighbourhood explored fears by having participants look at a city map and tell the questioner where they would not go, at what time and why. Better than a general survey, this asked very specifically where and in what situations in the community a person felt unsafe. The "mapping" of fear revealed the relevance of fear of crime as a personal concern and the perceived geographical extensiveness of fear areas.

Any survey will only scratch the surface of the issues related to fear of crime, yet it is a significant scratching, based on people's experiences, perceptions and opinions. Surveys are good starting points. But, as Rick Linden observed, surveys are restricted in what they tell us, often having conflicting data. They do not always get at real life issues, although it seems some are doing a better job now by, for example, contextualizing fears or making sure to qualify hypothetical scenarios by follow-up questions which check out the respondent's actual habits.

Public opinion polls reported in the media are usually less substantial "snapshots" of public opinion. There should be caution about such polls because so much depends on the wording of a question, the context in which the question is posed and the timing of the poll. Yet the reporting of their results itself influences public opinion about fear of crime.

An individual's fear of crime and the success of fear-reducing strategies can also be measured in "before and after" interviews with people who took precautions or were somehow affected by a crime prevention measure, e.g. living in a neighbourhood where lighting has been improved, or participating in a burglary victim assistance program or self-defence course.

Appendix B
The academic "experts" who participated in the consultation were invited to name their "10 Commandments of Fear of Crime". Vince Sacco, Jean-Paul Brodeur and Rick Linden offered their "10 Commandments", "Twelve Commandments" and "One Commandment" respectively.

1. Little agreement exists regarding the most appropriate way to define fear of crime for research purposes.
2. Fear of crime is probably much more rational than many people argue.
3. Fear of crime is a much more serious problem for some in society than for others.
4. Political and journalistic rhetoric has overstated the problem of fear of crime.
5. Fear of crime is more a situational response than an enduring psychological disposition.
6. The focus of fear of crime research and fear of crime interventions should be the local community.
7. Fear levels vary quite markedly depending on how fear is measured.
8. The mass media are less important in explaining fear than is often believed.
9. Too often we tend to confuse fear with other emotional reactions to crime.
10. More attention needs to be devoted to qualitative research on fear of crime.

1. Avoid the generalizations that fear is irrational or rational. In some cases, it is and in others it is not.
2. Talking about your fears in a group meeting may enhance one's own level and that of others.
3. Fear of crime may be a crystallization of other insecurities.
4. Always make a distinction between specific fear, unfocused (diffused) fear and inferential fear ("I am not afraid in my own part of town but I would be in another part of town.")
5. Fear is an emotion. It should never be dismissed for being rationally or factually unfounded.
6. Fear is an emotion. Hence it may fluctuate. Never give up on reducing fear through education. If a fear of crime has no real ground, don't dismiss it but try to change the perception.
7. Fear of crime has been shown to be fear of disorder.
8. The effect of fear is not always negative. They may be used by the lonely and/or the elderly to reinstate solidarity. If you take away their fear, you also take away their bond. (which may be a disastrous result)
9. Fear affects crime-fighters in a fashion that is sometimes more dramatic and consequential than citizens' fear. Police shootings, when unwarranted, are caused by fear.
10. The strategies for addressing fear are not the same as the strategies to deal with the alleged causes of fear (dealing with crime and dealing with the fear of crime)
11. Fear may be pleasurable.
12. With regard to the fear of crime, the action of the media is a "black hole", i.e. terra ingognita. Its impact is an unknown.

1. Plan ten times (a reference to the most glaring weakness in most crime prevention programs)!

Understand this: Police records and files on you will never be erased. Records of every contact with you, every complaint by a neighbour,
arrest, charge, acquittal, stay, discharge, diversion and conviction are kept permanently by the police regardless of the outcome.


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