in protective or precautionary behaviors, that is, strategies designed to reduce the marginal risk of victimization if avoidance is not feasible or acceptable. Thus, for example, a person who must navigate a dangerous environment may alter their mode of transportation (taking a taxi rather than a public bus or driving rather than walking) or seek companions for the journey. Similarly, a person living in a neighborhood with a high rate of residential burglary may invest in home security precautions or purchase a weapon.

Apart from reducing their risk through avoidance or precautionary behaviors, people may also seek to minimize the costs or damages that they will incur in the event of a victimization (what DuBow et al., 1979, call insurance strategies). To illustrate, some persons carry little or no money outside the home in anticipation of potential robberies, whereas others insure or engrave their property in the home or simply refrain from keeping valuable property at home altogether.


A large number of surveys designed to measure public responses to fear of crime have been conducted in recent years. Although the samples and methodologies of these surveys vary widely, certain findings appear with sufficient regularity to warrant some general conclusions. First, among the most common responses to fear of crime in the United States is spatial avoidance, meaning that individuals commonly report that they avoid areas perceived to be dangerous. Spatial avoidance typically ranks in frequency above most or all other responses to fear in social surveys, at least among those responses that occur outside the home (DuBow et al., 1979; Research and Forecasts, 1980; Skogan and Maxfield, 1981). For example, 77 percent of a sample of Dallas residents reported that they avoided "certain places in the city," as did 63 percent of Seattle residents (Warr, 1985).

As noted earlier, there is a strong tendency among individuals to perceive crime in geographic terms; hence the tendency to avoid "dangerous places" is not surprising. So prevalent is spatial avoidance, however, that it is reasonable to assume that the ecology of U.S. cities is regulated to some extent by such avoidance patterns. Neighborhoods that are perceived to be dangerous places are likely to be find themselves socially isolated, and retail businesses that are located in ostensibly dangerous areas may suffer a shortage of customers (Conklin, 1975; Skogan and Maxfield, 1981). For example,

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