Given that how crimes are perceived by the general public influences their sense of community safety, police priorities and offending behaviour, and in light of little, if any at all, attention being paid to the determinants of such perception, the purpose of this paper is to examine their predictive value.
In total, 150 English participants with diverse backgrounds (78 males and 72 females – mean age: M=24.3; SD=5.44) completed surveys on their perceived increase in violent, sexual and benefit fraud crimes, taking into account theoretically and empirically underpinned factors, like age, income, number of days unemployed in the last three years, number of years spent in formal education and machiavellianism.
The multiple regression results suggest that participants with less formal education and less income were more likely to see a rise in violent crime. They also suggest that participants with less formal education and longer history of recent unemployment were more likely to see a rise in sexual crime. It turned out, however, that the recent history of unemployment was not a significant predictor of the perceived rise in benefit fraud – only a high machiavellianism score was.
This quantitative research paints a complex picture that could be complemented by follow-on qualitative studies.
The overarching message from this relatively modest study, therefore, which is part of a much larger and more complex ongoing research project, is to inform the public on crime in approachable and mass data-driven ways rather than leaving this to sensation-driven and selective scenario-focused media.
Increasing people's sense of community safety is likely to improve their general well-being, community cohesion and trust in others without necessarily inclining them to take personal risks and falling victim to crime due to ignorance and gullibility. This, in turn, might help guide crime prevention strategies and contribute to the actual reduction in crime levels and safer communities.
Not only does this article offer insight into people's perception of different crimes, addressing an important and neglected research deficit, but is also cautiously proposes the need for more professional education of the public about crime figures.
Fijwala, S., Palasinski, M. and Shortland, N. (2014), "The basic determinants of perceived increase in violent, sexual and benefit fraud crimes", Safer Communities, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 180-188. https://doi.org/10.1108/SC-07-2014-0010
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