Sociology and Criminology-Open Access

Sociology and Criminology-Open Access
Open Access

ISSN: 2375-4435


Research - (2021)Volume 9, Issue 4

Home Security and Fear of Crime

Philip J Verrecchia*
*Correspondence: Philip J Verrecchia, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Criminology and Criminal Justice, York College of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, United States, Tel: 717.815.6586, Email:

Author info »


Using a national sample of over 3,000 (n=3,265), this study explored whether home security has an effect on fear of being a victim of crime. An index was created from 10 items to measure home security, and an index was created from five items to measure fear of crime. The more measures of home security a respondent has, the more they fear crime. Demographic variables such as age and gender also correlated positively with fear of crime.


Home security; Fear of crime; Regression analysis

Fear of crime has been a focus of criminal justice research for many years. For obvious non-academic reasons, fear of crime is also of concern to the general public. “The increasing use of home security systems in many countries is evidence of a willingness to put a stop to fear and crime in some way” Vilalta [1], which indicates what people, will do to feel safe. Previous studies examined the relationship between sensitivity to risk and fear of crime. Killias, Warr [2-3] other researchers examined the relationship between victimization and fear of crime. Hart [4] while others analyzed the relationship between fear of crime and avoidance behaviors and demographicvariables.Rader, May and Goodrum[5] through broken windows. Wilson and Kelling [6] and social disorganization Shaw and McKay [7] research has been conducted on the relationship between fear of crime and neighborhood cohesion. Actions taken to prevent or deter crime complement the work of law enforcement officers and diminish the amount of public resources necessary to catch and convict criminals. However, research into the effectiveness of “private actions” to deter criminals “lack[s] consensus” de Oliveira [8].

Review of the Literature

While fear of crime is a much studied area, there is a paucity of research examining the effect of home security systems on fear of crime. While it might seem obvious that fear of crime would motivate someone to buy a home security system, does having a system for home protection make people feel safer?

Utilizing a survey of over 1,500 (n=1,549) households in Mexico City, Vilalta [1] examined the effect of a home security system on fear of crime because, “previous studies have not considered home security systems in their descriptive models for fear of crime” [1]. This could be due to an automatic assumption that having a home security system makes people feel safe, but is this the case? Vilalta [1] analyzed data that was collected by the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City. Specifically, the data used from this study was collected through personalinterviews with 1,549 households in Mexico City conducted as part of the August 2007 Mexico City Metropolitan Area Survey on Victimization and Institutional Efficacy (ENVEI) Vilalta [1]. Vilalta [1] operationalized home security as, “burglar alarm systems, special door locks, reinforced windows, watchdogs, high walls, doorman, formal monitoring systems in the neighborhood, and informal monitoring systems with neighbors” [1]. The most frequently used method of home security in Mexico City is high walls, but people who had high walls around their homes actually felt less safe than people who did not Vilalta [1]. What Vilalta [1] found that none of the home security systems listed had an effect on fear of crime. Other factors that had an effect on feelings of safety included sex (women felt less safe than men), living in a neighborhood that was “perceived to be unsafe” Vilalta [1] and trust in the police. One interview question asked about feelings of safety when home alone, and it would be interesting to know how much of a mitigating effect not being home alone, and with how many people, would have on feelings of safety.

de Oliveira [8] examined the effects of “precaution technologies” on household robbery and burglary, utilizing data from the Brazilian National Household Sample Survey for Brazil in 2009. Crime requires opportunity as well as the absence of a guardian who discourages crime, and criminals prefer to victimize homes in the absence of such guardians. Therefore people take preventive action (e.g., buy an alarm system, put a fence around their property, etc) to reduce the chances of their home being burglarized, since such precaution technologies “increase the effort required to commit a crime” and might deter individuals who are so motivatedde Oliveira [8]. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of certain preventive technologies on victimization of burglary and robbery in Brazil. What de Oliveira [8] found was that home security technologies do not reduce home burglaries, but certain combinations may reduce home robberies. The combination of electric fences, alarms and private security reduces the likelihood of home robbery by almost 10%, but when they are combined with a dog the likelihood of home robbery is reduced by 86% de Oliveira [8].

Utilizing data from a national survey (n=3,265), the purpose of the current study is to examine the association between home security and fear of crime, along with other demographic and contextual variables.

Materials and Methods

The current study was conducted using a panel sample from more than 30 million possible respondents managed by the Qualtrics Company. Data collection was completed over five days in March 2017. Gun owners were oversampled (50%) to allow for comparisons within the sample between gun owners and non-gun owners, and the sample was evenly split in gender. The sample was limited to American residents over the age of 18.


Over three thousand (n=3,265) participants completed the survey. The average age of our sample was 25.66 years (SD=16.48). Our sample was mostly female (55.6%), white (52.1%), and did not have a college degree (59%). Under half (41%) possessed a college degree or higher, just over half (52.2%) classify themselves as politically conservative, just over half (53.1%) own a firearm, and the majority (73.8%) have never been the victim of a violent crime (assault, rape, robbery, etc). The demographics for our sample can be found in (Table 1).

  Demographic Frequency Percent
Age 18-27 549 22.4
  28-37 609 24.8
  38-47 358 10.8
  48-57 367 11.2
  58-67 366 11.1
  68-77 177 5.5
  78-87 26 0.9
  Over 88 3 0.0
Sex Male 1091 44.4
  Female 1364 55.6
Education Some college or less 1448 59.0
  College degree and higher 1007 41.0
Politics Liberal 686 47.8
  Conservative 749 52.2
Own a Firearm Yes 1603 53.1
  No 1418 46.9
Race Non-white 1563 47.9
  White 1702 52.1

Table 1: Participant Demographics (N=3265).

Since the purpose of this study is to examine the effect of home security on fear of crime, an index was created to measure fear of crime from five Likert scale statements, which are as follows: I am afraid someone will break into my home while I am there; I am afraid of being attacked by someone with a weapon (knife, club, gun, or other weapon); It is not safe to be out at night; I am afraid that someone I know will become a victim of crime; and I am afraid to walk alone at night. By creating an index, we hoped to use a multidimensional approach to measuring fear of crime, as called for by Nicole Rader when she suggested a reconceptualization of the study of fear of crime. Each statement was coded as strongly disagree (1), disagree (2), neither agree nor disagree (3), agree (4), and strongly agree (5). By combining these statements, the index would range from a low of five (everyone strongly disagrees) to a high of 25 (everyone strongly agrees). The mean score for the index was 16.06 (SD=4.91), indicating that our sample leans slightly toward being afraid of crime (with a midpoint in the index of 15). Cronbach’s Alpha for the Fear of Crime Index was a robust .880. The responses to each Fear of Crime Index statement can be found in (Table 2).

Statement Frequency                Percent
I am afraid someone will break into my home while I am there
Strongly Disagree 293 9.6
Disagree 574 18.8
Neither   793 26.0
Agree 890 29.2
Strongly Agree 497 16.3
I am afraid of being attacked by someone with a weapon (knife, club, gun or other)
Strongly Disagree 253 8.3
Disagree 515 16.9
Neither   774 25.4
Agree      1010 33.1
Strongly Agree 495 16.2
It is not safe to be out at night
Strongly Disagree 262 8.6
Disagree 615 20.2
Neither   841 27.6
Agree      888 29.1
Strongly Agree 441 13.5
I am afraid that someone I know will becomea victim of crime
Strongly Disagree 208 6.8
Disagree 416 13.7
Neither   813 26.7
Agree      1138 37.3
Strongly Agree 472 15.5
I am afraid to walk alone at night whereI live
Strongly Disagree 512 16.8
Disagree 802 26.3
Neither   669 22.0
Agree      646         21.2
Strongly Agree 418 13.7

Table 2: Fear of Crime Index Statements.

Another index was created to measure home security. Respondents were asked “Please indicate which of the following are currently in use for protection of your home,” then were asked to answer yes or no to each of the following: alarm system; dog; security lights; gun; fence; door bolts; additional door locks; window guards; police department or other security identification stickers; and automatic timers or security timers. Each statement was coded as no (0) or yes (1). By combining these statements the index would range from a low of 0 (someone does not have any of these security measures) to a high of 10 (someone has every security measure). The mean score for this index was 3.17 (SD=2.04), which indicates that the average person in our sample has about three of these home security devices. Most of our sample has door bolts (57.5% said yes); while the least utilized home security measure was police department or other security identification stickers (12.6%). Cronbach’s Alpha for the Home Security Index was .690. The responses to each Home Security Index statement can be found in (Table 3).

Statement Frequency Percent1
Please indicate which of the following are currently in use for the protection of your home:
Alarm System 1035 31.7
Dog 1481 45.4
Security lights 1092 33.4
Gun 1497 45.8
Fence 969 29.7
Door bolts 1877 57.5
Additional door locks 1079 33.0
Window guards 562 17.2
Police department or other security identification stickers 413 12.6
Automatic timers or security timers 352 10.8

Table 3: Measures of Home Security.


Our dependent variable (the Fear of Crime Index) was dichotomized to run a logistic regressionmodel. The goal of this study is to determine whether there are differences in fear of crime based on different levels of home security, so all unsure responses were eliminated from our analysis. The dichotomized index predicts the probability of membership in terms of fear of crime. The aim of this study is to learn whatcombinationsof our independent, demographic, and contextual variables would predict the probability of fearing (or not) crime.

The logistic regression model determined which independent variables influenced fear of crime. Regression results for the model indicate that the overall model was statistically reliable (Model χ2(9)=138.033, p< .001) and correctly predicted over 65 percent (65.8%) of the responses. Our model revealed that people who had more home security measures also had greater fear of crime (β=.073, p<.01), and they were over one times more likely to fear crime than participants who has fewer home security measures (Exp(B)=1.075). Additionally, younger respondents expressed greater fear of crime more than older respondents (β=-.014, p<.001) and they were over 99% more likely to fear crime (Exp(B)=.986). The third predictor variable that was significant in our model was previous victimization for a property crime. Previous property crime victims were more likely to fear crime than non-victims (β=-.289, p<.01), just under 75 percent more likely (Exp(B)=.749). Our model also found that nonwhites were more likely to fear crime than whites were (β=-.390, p<.01), just under 70 percent more likely (Exp(B)=.677). Finally, our model found that respondents who see crime as a significant problem were more likely to fear crime (β=.430, p<.001), and they were one and a half times more likely (Exp(B)=1.537) than those who do not see crime as a significant problem. The results for our model can be found in (Table 4)

Variable B S.E. Wald df Sig. Exp(B)
Home security index** .073 .026 7.680 1 .006 1.075
Victim     of a property crime** -.289 .105 7.605 1 .006 .749
Victim of a violent crime -.195 .119 2.697 1 .101 .822
Age*** -.014 .003 20.592 1 .000 .986
Gender* .231 .099 5.468 1 .019 1.260
Race**    -.390 .113 11.829 1 .001 .677
Education -.031 .048 .424 1 .515 .969
The police are effective when I call for help -.066 .050 1.760 1 .185 .936
Crime is a significant problem*** in the United States .430 .054 62.838 1 .000 1.537
Constant*** .600 .046 168.18 1 .000 1.822
Model Chi-Square                138.033            
Negelkerke R2         .090            

Table 4: Logistic Regression Results for the Fear of Crime Index.


The goal of the present study is to examine the effect home security on fear of crime. We found that the more home security someone has, the more they fear crime. While this may seem counterintuitive, this could be explained by reasoning that someone who fears crime would invest in more home security (e.g., buy a home alarm system, get a dog, add more door bolts, etc). The average number of home security devices for our sample was around three, so this begs the question that if they have three devices for home security, why do they still fear crime? Further qualitative research should explore the direction of this relationship.

In our sample, more people feared that someone they know would become a victim of crime (52.8% agreed and strongly agreed) than they feared that their home would be broken into (45.5% agreed or strongly agreed), or that they would be attacked by someone with a weapon (49.3% agreed or strongly agreed). Perhaps our sample fears crime more for others than for themselves.

This research contributes to the literature because it is one of few studies to use home security as an independent variable and fear of crime as a dependent variable. Also, this study sets itself apart by using indices to examine fear of crime, rather than using questions that are dichotomous (do you fear crime or not?). These are complex, nuanced issues that deserve complex, nuanced investigation.

There are methodological limitations to this study. While this is a nationally representative survey with a sample of over 3,000, that gun owners were oversampled and no one under the age of 18 took part limits the generalizability of our findings. In addition, there were other variables that were not captured and included in the analysis that could affect feelings of safety such as household income, state of residence, and satisfaction with local law enforcement Rader, May and Goodrum [5]. In addition, respondents were asked general fear of crime questions, not just about fear of being victimized in their home. Perhaps with three items for home security they feel safe when they are there, just not when they leave their residence. Another limitation could be the use of anelectronicsurvey in collecting data. Sue and Ritter [10] report that nonresponse bias is an issuewith web-based surveys. In 2012, a survey regardi ng gun policies on college campuses was conducted both through an email survey and a pen and paper survey in classrooms at the same university. Wells, Cavanaugh, Bouffard and Nobles [11]. The face to face surveys reported much higher response rates (around 90%) than the web-based surveys (just over 10%). However, Groves [9] indicates that low response rates may not necessarilybeindicative of bias. Wells, Cavanaugh, Bouffard and Nobles [11] provide an explanation ofleverage-saliencytheory, which states that the decision to participate in a survey can be influenced byhow important the topic is to respondents.

By looking at the effect of home security on fear of crime using a different methodological approach,andbuilding on previous studies, we hope that we have added to the understanding of thisimportantissue. Future research should continue in this vein, but more and different statements could be used to develop other indices to explore the nature of this relationship. What seemed to be a fairly straightforward relationship (people who have home security measures would not fear crime), apparently is not.


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Author Info

Philip J Verrecchia*
Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Criminology and Criminal Justice, York College of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, United States

Citation: Verrecchia PJ (2021) Home Security and Fear of Crime. Social and Crimonol 9: 210.

Received: 25-Mar-2021 Accepted: 21-Apr-2021 Published: 23-Apr-2021 , DOI: 10.35248/2375-4435.21.9.210

Copyright: © 2021 Verrecchia PJ. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.