This experiment compared three formats for police dissemination of crime data to community members: two popular types of crime maps (i.e., graduated symbol and density) and the traditional tabular format of crime statistics.
The larger roles of the community in crime prevention and improvements in technology have increased police–citizen communication and the distribution of information from police departments to private citizens. Combined, these changes have led to the current movement among law enforcement agencies toward sharing both summary reports and maps of crime with community groups. Although the dissemination of crime information is intended to benefit community members, there is a lack of empirical evidence demonstrating the effects of crime mapping on citizen perceptions and fear of crime. In the current study, a randomized experimental design was used to measure residents’ fear of crime and their perception of the safety of different areas of Redlands, CA. Overall, residents who viewed either type of map reported less fear than those who viewed tabular statistics. Respondents who viewed graduated symbol maps consistently reported less fear than either density maps or tabular statistics; however, there were differences depending on the type of map. While graduated symbol maps were associated with the lowest levels of fear of robbery, theft, or assault; density maps produced different reactions depending on the area of the city. Finally, the maps did not stigmatize high crime areas of Redlands. Where statistically significant differences existed, respondents who were given maps were more likely to recommend someone move into an area than those who were given tabular statistics. (Published abstract provided)