Fear of Crime Increases in America



Per Gallup, Concern About Crime Climbs to a 15-Year High.

Per Gallup, Americans’ self-reported experience with crime has been trending up since about 2001 and is now at a numerical high.


By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post Master’s degree-Johns Hopkins University.


Fear of crime is increasing throughout the United States per Gallup. Gallup uses the words “worries” and “concerns” to describe their perceptual research. For the purposes of this article, I use “fear” to describe the crime perceptions of many Americans.

I just wrote, “Are American’s Wrong about Crime?” in response to journalists and some criminologists suggesting that there was a disconnect between crime rates and perceptions or fear of crime, see Crime in America.

The Department of Justice offers two sources of national crime data through crimes reported to police via the FBI and the National Crime Survey, see Crime in America.

Gallup is an often-cited third source on crime and the definitive source for fear of crime.

“Americans’ Worries About Most Crimes Similar to 2015” from Gallup, provides statistical insight as to fear, see Gallup-Fear, Data from this report are cited below.

This is after Gallup offered another report on, “In U.S., Concern About Crime Climbs to a 15-Year High,” in April of 2016, see Gallup-Concern.

Fear of Crime is a National Concern

Fear of crime in America is a real concern; it’s something that drives political campaigns, business investment, housing and virtually every aspect of our society. If Americans view their immediate or surrounding communities as dangerous, it affects every aspect of their lives.

Gun purchases are skyrocketing. Use of home security equipment is on the rise. Crime is one of the top items of coverage (beyond sports and weather) by local news.

There are three categories of “worries” below that are at historical highs but are still in the range of scores for previous years. In fact, I’m unaware of the range of data that follows that was not cited in previous years. The graphic from Gallup (November, 2016) is below.

The following categories are at historic highs for fear:

Sexual assault

Assaulted or killed by a co-worker

Hate crime

American worries about crime increased 8 points for terrorism, 6 points for being attacked while driving, 5 points for being mugged, 4 points for burglary while not home, 4 points for sexual assault, 3 points for vehicle theft or being broken into, and 3 points for hate crime.

 So This Means?

There are endless data addressing the roots or causes of fear of crime and I’m not quite sure that experts can explain concern to anyone’s complete satisfaction. Fear can seem unreasonable; there are record decreases in crime per longitudinal data from the FBI and National Crime Survey, so many ask how fear or concern of crime could increase?

Much of this was addressed in “Are American’s Wrong about Crime?” see Crime in America, where I stated that, according to additional data from Gallup, 2016-Americans’ direct experience with crime is at a 16-year high. A future article will address crime data from Gallup.

There are differences as to what the Department of Justice measures and what Gallup offers on crime numbers on a yearly basis (i.e., cyber crime, vandalism) but there are consistencies in all three data sets that would lead one to consider their findings accurate. All (FBI, National Crime Survey, Gallup) are known for sound observations. There are differences in the data provided based on age of respondents and the size of the sample used. The National Crime Survey uses a separate report for victims of identity theft.

Maybe it’s time for a greater consideration of Gallup data when we analyze national crime numbers and fear. There are undercounts in the Department of Justice data and there is no national-systemic DOJ data on fear.

But the bottom-line question is whether Gallup is doing a credible job of measuring crime or fear or crime in America and how their data can work in conjunction with numbers offered by the US Department of Justice.

Per Gallup-Americans’ Worries About Various Crimes, 2015 vs. 2016

How often do you, yourself, worry about the following things — frequently, occasionally, rarely or never? How about … ?

2015 2016 Change
% Frequently or occasionally worry % Frequently or occasionally worry (pct. pts.)
Being a victim of terrorism 27 35 8
Being attacked while driving your car 17 23 6
Getting mugged 25 30 5
Your home being burglarized when you are not there 39 43 4
Being sexually assaulted 16 20 4
Having your car stolen or broken into 40 43 3
Being the victim of a hate crime 19 22 3
Being a victim of identity theft 69 70 1
Having a school-aged child of yours physically harmed while attending school 33 34 1
Your home being burglarized when you are there 25 26 1
Getting murdered 17 18 1
Being assaulted/killed by a coworker/employee where you work 7 8 1
Having the credit card information you have used at stores stolen by computer hackers 69 69 0
Having your email, passwords or electronic records hacked into 64
Oct. 5-9, 2016

See Gallup-Fear.

Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com. Media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

My book: “Amazon Hot New Release”- “A Must Have Book,” Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization available at Amazon




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