Fear of crime in Sheffield

Tuesday 9 March 2010

What contributes to people's fear of crime in cities? How much do litter, graffiti, broken street lighting and dilapidated buildings play a role? Or do people's social and cultural knowledge play a stronger role in shaping people's fears? An innovative experiment in Sheffield, which is organised as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) Festival of Social Science (12 -21 March), aims to find out.

Members of the public are invited to participate in the experiment called Fear and loathing in Sheffield: Public fear in an urban landscape. The experiment will explore the factors that contribute to people's fear of crime. In Britain, the fear of crime outweighs the actual risk of crime but because the fear of crime is damaging to people's wellbeing it is often seen as a social problem in its own right. 

Under the guidance of Dr Camilla Priede of Sheffield University participants will be provided with disposable cameras to photograph elements in a local neighbourhood that provoke fear or unease. Following this, participants will be asked to share their attitudes and experiences towards the areas that have been photographed.

"Taking photos of areas that people fear will help identify physical factors that may bring about unease," says Dr Priede of the Centre for Criminological Research at the University of Sheffield. "And by asking participants to share their perceptions and views towards certain landscape we can explore how much people's knowledge and familiarity of an area shape their fear."

The information gathered during the experiments will help inform research into people's fear of crime and how such fear can be reduced. The ESRC Festival of Social Science takes place up and down the county in celebration of some of the country's leading social science research, showing how the work of social scientists makes a difference to all our lives.

For further information contact

ESRC Press Office:

Notes for editors

  1. Fear and loathing in Sheffield: public fear in an urban landscape
  2. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research which impacts on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million.  At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. You can now follow updates from the ESRC on Twitter , including new funding calls as they are posted, press releases, events and more.
  3. The Festival of Social Science is run by the Economic and Social Research Council which runs from 12 to 21 March 2010, alongside National Science and Engineering Week. Events from some of the country's leading social scientists the festival celebrates the very best of British Social Science research and how it influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future. The Festival of Social Science provides insight into research in a variety of formats; from traditional lectures and exhibitions to theatrical performances, film screenings and topical debates. The Festival of Social Science is aimed at a range of different audiences, including policy makers, business, the media, the general public and students of all ages. Press releases detailing some of the varied events are available at the Festival website .