20 May 2008 10:23 AM

Do we really fear crime or are we just anxious about neighbourhood breakdown and the speed of change in society?

Research, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, shows that our everyday concerns about crime in & are much less frequent than previously thought. For people who live in high crime areas, the fear of crime tends to be an everyday experience that reduces their quality of life. Yet for those people who live more protected lives, the fear of crime tends to be a more diffuse feeling that reflects a broader expression of concerns about social change.

Dr Stephen Farrall from Sheffield University and Dr Jonathan Jackson of the London School of Economics found that people did not neatly separate out the issue of crime from general unease towards social stability and the pace and direction of our changing society. Rather than being about an irrational sense of crime, both fear of crime and anxiety about crime distilled popular concerns about neighbourhood breakdown.

Dr Stephen Farrall said “the fear of crime is an important social indicator of any societies’ well-being. Our research suggests however that real, immediate threats to people are, thankfully, rarely encountered.”

Dr Jonathan Jackson added “fear of crime is more often a broader anxiety than a concrete worry about the threat of victimisation – but in any case, these emotions are all bound up in public concerns about social change and the health of the norms and values that underpin our society”.


Dr Stephen Farrall (Tel: 0114 222 6718, email: s.farrall@sheffield.ac.uk )

Dr Jonathan Jackson (Tel: 020 7955 7652 , email: j.p.jackson@lse.ac.uk )

ESRC Press Office:

Kelly Barnett (Tel: 01793 413032 / 07826874166, email:kelly.barnett@esrc.ac.uk)

Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122, email: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk)


  1. This release is based on the findings from ‘Experience and Expression in the fear of crime’ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by Dr Stephen Farrall from Sheffield University (at the time of research Keele University) and Dr Jonathan Jackson from the London School of Economics. Methodology: The study used data from the 2003-2004 British Crime Survey covering and , which interviews around 40,000 people each year.
  2. This research has been discussed with the British Crime Survey team at a number of meetings to feed back the results. The team is largely supportive of the project’s findings.
  3. The research also included 111 qualitative interviews from other research projects from around the country.
  4. “Fear of crime” is episodes of fear caused by immediate threat.
  5. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the 's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s planned total expenditure in 2008/09 is £203 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
  6. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk
  7. The ESRC confirms the quality of its funded research by evaluating research projects through a process of peers review. This research has been graded as ‘Outstanding’