02d Perception of Crime

Generally speaking, those who are most fearful of violent crime are often the least likely to experience it.  That is, mismatches between fear of victimization and actual risk or probability are common.  As a typical example, antisocial behaviour often increases fear of violent crime victimization – but generally is not associated with actual events.

There are gender variations in perceptions of risk.  For example, in 2004 only 21% of women stated that they felt very safe walking alone in their local area after dark – compared with 44% of men surveyed (Johnson, 2005, p.4).  Yet as the data shown above indicated, males are at greater risk of assault than females when away from their homes.  Conversely, females may be at increased risk within their homes from a person already known to them.

Similarly, there is a mismatch between perceived risk and actual risk for many older Australians: seniors are at low risk of being victimized by a violent crime – and in fact may be most at risk of elder abuse by a relative or ‘shonky’ tradespeople.

It is important to note that predictions of violence by specific potential perpetrators are notoriously difficult to make; the best predictors appear to be substance abuse, a past history of aggression, and psychopathy.  Contrary to popular perception, people with a mental illness are not generally more likely to commit violence, apart from those with a major illness (such as schizophrenia) when a ‘dual diagnosis’ with substance abuse is included (Ogloff and Davis, 2005, p.316-320).  The exponential rise in use of methamphetamine (‘ice’), ‘speed’ and cocaine are likely to result in an exponential rise in assaults.