To the trained crime fighter, the importance of fear lies in its consequences for the individual, neighborhood, and for the overall society. Research indicates that the consequences of fear in America and in Tuscaloosa are widespread. If the truth were known all Americans take some precautions in their daily lives, only minor one like locking doors or leaving lights on. Of many precautions that are taken, the most frequently reported is spatial avoidance, avoiding places that are assumed to be dangerous. Some places, whole regions of urban areas-parks, neighborhoods, downtown areas, commercial areas-are effectively off limits to a large segment of the population because of their reputations as being dangerous places. Those who are fearful are less likely to leave their homes at night, answer the door, or walk outside.

Fear of crime can have a devastating effect for neighborhoods. Once fear of crime sets in, established higher-income individuals move away. New arrivals with weaker commitments to the community move in. Some believe that fear of crime has caused a general decline in the quality of life in this country.

Fear is a natural protective concept, and fear of crime has undoubtedly prevented many individuals from becoming victims of crime. It is when fear is out of proportion to risk, that it becomes dysfunctional for a group. The challenge is to insure that the public is fully informed about the risks of criminal victimization.