Concerns about certain crimes are at their highest level in decades, causing Americans to isolate themselves from their communities, according to a new survey.
The increase in fear comes as violent crime has declined across the countrywhile property crimes have increased, according to the FBI.
Fear that certain crimes will increase
A recent Gallup poll found that 28% of Americans worry frequently or occasionally they will be killed, according to a November 16 press release. That’s a near-record high.
The Gallup poll polled 1,009 adults between Oct. 2 and 23, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Meanwhile, half of American adults said they worry about their car being stolen or broken into, 37% worry about being mugged and 32% worry about being attacked while driving — near-record highs.
In addition, the vast majority of Americans, 72 percent, worry about being a victim of identity theft, according to the survey.
This increased apprehension has had a detrimental effect on the daily lives of Americans, causing them to slow down their usual activities.
Four in ten Americans, the highest number in three decades, fear walking alone within a mile of their home at night, the survey found. The last time concern about walking alone was this high was in 1993, when crime spiked across the country. close to an all-time highaccording to a 2016 report by the Brennan Center for Justice.
A third, 34%, of Americans said that concerns about crime prevent them from driving in certain areas of their communities, while 28% say that such concerns prevent them from attending events such as concerts, fairs and sports games
More than a quarter, 28%, of those surveyed said their anxiety about crime has prevented them from talking to strangers.
Fears out of step with crime data
According to government data, these heightened fears are largely out of step with the downward trend in violent crime in the United States.
Violent crime in the US peaked in 1991 at a level of 758 crimes per 100,000 people, according to the FBI. Since then, it has fallen precipitously, although there have been occasional upswings.
After a relatively small increase in 2020, violent crime fell back to pre-pandemic levels of 380 crimes per 100,000 people in 2022, the data show.
Property crime, that is theft, increased to a total of 847,522 crimes in 2022. But like violent crime, it has fallen sharply from a peak of more than 2.8 million crimes in 1990
While spikes in urban crime are “a serious cause for concern,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice, “history shows that these trends do not necessarily signal the start of a new crime wave nationwide and, even with these increases, crime and homicide rates remain near historic lows.”
Research has shown that there is no connection between crime rates and levels of concern about crime, Barry Glassner, sociologist and author of “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things,” told McClatchy News.
One contributing factor to increased fear levels is local television news, Glassner said.
“If you watch local TV news in almost any city in the country on almost any night, you’re going to see scary stories about crime in your community,” he said, noting that those stories don’t necessarily reflect larger patterns.
Also, state and local politicians sometimes inflame concerns about crime because it’s seen as a winning campaign strategy, Glassner said.
“My recommendation is to get the facts,” Glassner said. “See if crime is, in fact, increasing in your community, or if instead you hear a lot about specific incidents that may indeed be alarming, but do not in any way indicate a trend that you should be concerned about “.