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Comparative Analysis of Victimization, Fear of Crime, and Social-Order Problems in Elderly-Only and Mixed-Population Public Housing, Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2002
31 pages
This executive summary reports on a study that examined fear of crime and victimization in two types of public housing, elderly-only and mixed-population, in Omaha, NE.
Actual victimization was compared to fear of crime in four public housing towers, two of which had elderly-only populations and two of which had mixed-populations of elderly occupants and disabled occupants. In Omaha, definitions of disabled became broad and included those with psychological, mental, and social disabilities as well as physical disabilities. As such, Omaha’s mixed-population public housing facilities became among the housing authorities’ most troubled sites. Interviews were conducted with 265 residents of the 4 towers during the summer of 1999 and the summer of 2000. Interview topics included victimization, fear of crime, social-order problems, perception of drug-related activity, and threats directed against residents. Researchers also analyzed official crime incident records from the local police department, 911 calls for service that were identified as crime-related, and the internal incident report records of the housing authority for each tower. Results indicated that 29 percent of those interviewed were victims of the crimes of assault, robbery, burglary, or theft during the study periods. Almost 54 percent of those interviewed reported being fearful of crime. Among those living in the mixed-population towers, 73 percent reported being fearful of crime during at least one of the interview periods. Most telling was the finding that almost 52 percent of those living in the mixed-population towers reported being fearful in both years while the combined percentage for the elderly-only towers was a mere 9.9 percent. Furthermore, social-order problems were substantially higher in the mixed-population towers than they were in the elderly-only towers. Overall, 33.5 percent of all respondents reported drug-related activities occurred in their building; 81.8 percent of these residents lived in the mixed-population towers. Findings show that fear of crime is a serious and persistent problem in mixed-population public housing, but not in elderly-only public housing. The findings have implications for policy concerning public housing.

Date Published: August 1, 2002