Perception of threat

Despite consistently falling crime levels, around two thirds of the public perceive levels of crime to be increasing [1]. With worst case scenarios making more compelling news, the media plays a role in building and maintaining these fears. This may result in a reduced willingness to take responsibility for others' safety and well-being. Given the additional fear of terrorism, health scares, global warming and recession, people may choose either to retreat into their own worlds or to rise to confront the diverse threats.

What are the implications?

  • An increase in surveillance, such as CCTV, in an attempt to allay public fear around crime.
  • Greater reluctance to assist members of the public in trouble through fear of confrontation.
  • Increased perception of a decrease in ‘community’.
  • Increased media coverage of violent crime and antisocial behaviour with a particular focus on certain age (see attitudes towards different generations), socio-economic, political and religious groups.
  • A risk that public attitudes towards certain groups become increasingly hostile.

Moving forward

A perception of threat may reduce people's willingness to engage with society either directly or due to an associated reduction in the sense of community.

  • Does fear impact on people's willingness to volunteer? If this fear is unreasonable, can you change anything to develop a more appropriate attitude?
  • Does a perceived decrease in ‘community’ reduce people's willingness to engage with your work?
  • What can be done to foster a more optimistic attitude?

Fear may be associated with particular groups or minorities, such as younger people or certain ethnic groups.

  • How might your organisation combat negative perceptions about certain groups who are perceived as threatening by some?
  • Can you create links between groups?

Want to know more?

Crime in England and Wales 2009/10

Published by: Home Office

Date: 2010

Format: Pdf

What is it? A report summarising crime statistics in England and Wales. The report combines statistics of police recorded crime and the British Crime Survey. It provides statistics based on types of crime, variations in area and trends over time. The report is published annually each July. This report (2009/10) is the ninth report in the annual series.

Why are fear and distrust spiralling in twenty-first century Britain

Published by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Date: October 2008

Format: pdf

What is it? Among the main points of this brief report is the discrepancy between the reduced crime rates seen in crime statistics and the rise in the popular fear of crime. This is linked with media representations of crime and the commercial value of news stories that increase public fear. The report also discusses the link between fear and trust.

How useful is this? The report is a useful overview of key concerns in the public perception of crime.

Rural crime wave exposed in new figures

Published by: Daily Telegraph, right of centre daily broadsheet

Date: January 2010

Format: Web

What is it? The article discuses crime rates in rural communities. It notes that while overall violent crime has fallen, in rural areas, there has been a significant increase.

How useful is this? The article usefully illustrates the complexity of crime statistics, encouraging a more nuanced interpretation. It does have a rather alarmist tone however, notably in the title.


  1. Crime in England and Wales 2009/2010 - Home Office [back]
Last updated at 12:52 Wed 23/Feb/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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