Fear of crime in the New York City subway

Vincent Richard Del Castillo, Fordham University


The dissertation uses survey data from a study conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City in 1988. The subjects were 996 New York City residents, 18 years of age and older, the majority of whom were daily subway riders. Fear of criminal victimization in the New York City subway system is examined and contrasted with actual victimization data. It is hypothesized that people's fear of subways is associated with, (1) visible signs of social control or its absence; (2) background characteristics of subway riders identified in previous research including age, sex, education, criminal victimization experience; (3) people's perceived vulnerability to crime. Social control factors in the subway include graffiti on subway stations, disruptive or uncivil behaviors of other passengers, and police effectiveness in exercising control in the subway. A literature review uncovered disagreement in the operationalization of fear of crime; specifically the use of risk measures to define fear. Methodological problems in previous research led to the development of a multi-item fear of crime index. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis as well as path analysis is used to measure the net effects of the subway control variables. The need for conceptual and methodological consensus in the way fear of crime is defined and measured is emphasized. Compared with seven individual fear of crime measures, the composite index captures more of the variability in fear of crime and appears to be a more suitable measurement strategy. Control variables add significantly and substantially to the explanation of the variance in fear of crime. The strongest predictors of fear of crime are (1) being female; (2) the perception of being at higher risk of crime victimization than others; (3) the perception that passengers are often hassled by youths; (4) the appearance of graffiti on subway stations.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Del Castillo, Vincent Richard, "Fear of crime in the New York City subway" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223811.