Correlates of local safety-related concerns in a Swedish Community: a cross-sectional study

Kullberg, Agneta; Karlsson, Nadine; Timpka, Toomas; Lindqvist, Kent
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p221
Academic Journal
Background: Crime in a neighbourhood has been recognized as a key stressor in the residential environment. Fear of crime is related to risk assessment, which depends on the concentration of objective risk in time and space, and on the presence of subjective perceived early signs of imminent hazard. The aim of the study was to examine environmental, socio-demographic, and personal correlates of safety-related concerns at the local level in urban communities. The specific aim was to investigate such correlates in contiguous neighbourhoods in a Swedish urban municipality. Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used to investigate three neighbourhood settings with two pair-wise conterminous but socially contrasting areas within each setting. Crime data were retrieved from police records. Study data were collected through a postal questionnaire distributed to adult residents (n = 2476) (response rate 56%). Composite dimensions of perceived residential safety were derived through a factor analysis. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine associations between high-level scores of the three safety-related dimensions and area-level crime rate, being a victim of crime, area reputation, gender, age, education, country of birth, household civil status and type of housing. Results: Three composite dimensions of perceived residential safety were identified: (I) structural indicators of social disorder; (II) contact with disorderly behavior; and (III) existential insecurity. We found that area-level crime rates and individual-level variables were associated with the dimensions structural indicators of social disorder and existential insecurity, but only individual-level variables were associated with the dimension contact with disorderly behavior. Self-assessed less favorable area reputation was found to be strongly associated with all three factors. Being female accorded existential insecurity more than being a victim of crime. Conclusion: We have identified environmental, socio-demographic, and personal correlates of safety-related concerns in contiguous neighbourhoods in a Swedish community. The results of this study suggest that residents' self-assessed area reputation is an important underlying mechanism of perceived safety. We also found a difference in crime rates and safety-related concerns between areas with blocks of flats compared with small-scale areas although the neighbourhoods were close geographically.


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