Feelings of fear concerning crime may be unwarranted, according to researchers at the University College of London, who have determined that much of that fear is contagious from person to person.
Though not discounting the concerns of people who live in genuinely crime-ridden areas, researchers believe that the frequency spent worrying about crime may be unnecessary, based on a model the researchers built.
The mathematically-based computer model observed a simulated city with a population of 100,000 people separated into three groups: people immune from crime, people living in a safe region of the city and people living in a crime-ridden part of the city.
After a virtual six-year time period, the researchers observed the social interactions among the three groups with some of the population even becoming victims of simulated crimes.
The researchers found that the people living in the safer regions of the city felt safer than those who didn't unless they communicated with someone from a crime-ridden region or unless they were victims of a crime themselves.
The researchers concluded that simply talking to someone from an unsafe area increased a person’s concerns for the potential of crime, pointing out that the person’s feelings concerning crime were influenced by others, thereby rendering the actual fear of crime contagious.
Unfortunately, the power to influence feelings about crime didn’t work in reverse. People living in safer areas were unable to reduce the fears of people living in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.