The Effects of Reported Crime and Neighborhood Context on Citizens' Perceptions of Neighborhood Crime and Disorder in Houston



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Perceptions of neighborhood crime and disorder are important for life quality in the community. Often the time, perceptions are not consistent with reality due to the complicity of human perceptions. Previous studies predominately focused on fear of crime. However, fear of crime is different from people’s interpretation of the prevalence and severity of crime and disorder issues in the neighborhood. Therefore, the current study attempted to examine the major factors that affect citizens’ perceptions regarding the frequency and severity of crime and disorder issues in the neighborhood. Four data sources were used, including data collected from a random telephone survey of Houston citizens, data collected from citizen participants in the Houston Police Department’s Positive Interaction Program (PIP), calls for service data in Houston, and census data of Houston city.

Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was employed. Results derived from the analyses indicated that perceptions are consistent with reality to a certain extent. This is because reported crime was found to be a significant predictor across models although the strength was moderate. Neighborhood structure related variables failed to reach significance when predicting perceptions of neighborhood crime, but concentrated disadvantage was significantly related to perceptions of neighborhood disorder. Likewise, collective efficacy was a significant predictor of perceptions of neighborhood disorder, but not for perceptions of neighborhood crime. Two community policing related factors were the most significant predictors. Participants of PIP were more likely to perceive crime and disorder issues in the neighborhood. Residents with positive attitudes toward the police tended to perceive less crime and disorder issues in the neighborhood. Individual associated factors, such as age, race, and immigration status were found significant across models. It suggested that systematic perceptional difference on the part of residents did exist.

Findings derived from this study demonstrated that although crime and disorder are the original sources of crime-related perceptions, factors associated with the control of crime and disorder are the most important elements when it comes to residents’ recognition of crime and disorder problems. Hence, making efforts to enhance crime control as well as citizen participation in the control are crucial to enhance community quality.



Perceptions of neighborhood crime, Perceptions of neighborhood disorder, Reported crime, Neighborhood structure, Collective efficacy, Community policing, Citizen participation