A Risk-Based Model of Public Perceptions of Crime and Disorder

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Incivilities research and related ‘broken windows' crime control policies are based on the notion that citizens causally distinguish between crime and disorder. Subjective measures of crime and disorder, however, have (1) failed to supportive evidence of the two as distinctly separate constructs and (2) have shown divergent findings in different research frames. This paper argues that the public does not differentiate among these concepts – or in community conditions associated with criminogenic outcomes – in the same way that researchers have. Instead, the subjective interpretation of specific risks and their concrete circumstances by community members is a pragmatic assessment of associated conditions, and varies according to local community dynamics. However, these concepts share a central organizing principle and logic, that of perceived risk. We first assess the underlying structure of citizens' perceptions of perceived risks, assessing the latent structure of 24 measures of perceived risk. We then assess, using a second-order factor analysis, whether a unifying risk concept ties together the first-order factors in a meaningful way.

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