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Fear dynamics in public places: a case study of urban shopping centers

Adewumi Israel Badiora (Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun, Nigeria)
Bashir O. Odufuwa (Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun, Nigeria)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 21 March 2019

Issue publication date: 15 May 2019




This study aims to examine the relationships among some important factors and perceived personal safety in public places, using Nigerian urban shopping centers as case studies. Following the evidence from previous studies, the present study hypothesizes that individual characteristics influence perceived personal safety in shopping centers, and users’ perceived safety is affected by the shopping centers’ environmental attributes.


Two shopping centers were selected as cases for the study. Systematic sampling technique was used to select participants. Respondents were asked to answer closed-ended questions pertaining to environmental-design satisfaction, socio-economic and demographic characteristics and shopping center use. In total, 784 users participated in the survey. However, only 440 users properly completed the interview: 219 from Aleshinloye and 221 from Gbagi. Environmental design, socio-economic and demographic characteristics and shopping center use are independent variables, whereas perceived safety is a dependent variable. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, factor analysis and Man–Whitney U and Kruskal–Wallis tests.


Results show that fear of crime is the most important factor, explaining 28.16 per cent of the total variance in perceived safety. Nevertheless, findings show that demographic factors have a significant impact on perceived safety as well. There is also a strong association between perceived safety and the use of shopping centers, as Aleshinloye, which is perceived safer, has been more frequently used than Gbagi. Furthermore, environmental design appears as a significant factor for perceived safety in shopping centers, as users of Aleshinloye’s facilities have a better perceived safety from crime, better way-finding ability and more environmental-design satisfaction than users of Gbagi.

Practical implications

The study recommends the provisions of design or security precautions that prevent the fear of crime and improve way-finding capacity and environmental-design satisfaction in urban shopping facilities. Specifically, it is important to have environmental security precautions such as closed circuit televisions, good and functional lighting and private security staff, especially for women and the elderly, in urban commercial centers as these precautions could enhance their sense of personal safety.


Previous studies on shopping centers’ security have mainly concentrated on the relationship between fear of crime, perceived safety and associated factors. No studies to date have explored how way-finding ability affects perceived safety of users of shopping centers. This study contributes to the existing literature, revealing way-finding anxiety to be another important dimension of perceived safety in urban shopping centers.



Badiora, A.I. and Odufuwa, B.O. (2019), "Fear dynamics in public places: a case study of urban shopping centers", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 248-270.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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