By Kimihiro Hino (The University of Tokyo, Japan), Masaya Uesugi (Ritsumeikan University, Japan), Yasushi Asami (The University of Tokyo, Japan)
Japan has a lower crime rate (number of recorded crimes per 100,000 people) for homicide and theft than France, Germany, the UK and the US. The theft rate in Japan is less than one-third that of the US, while the homicide rate is around one-sixth. However, the nation’s sense of security with regard to crime remains low.
Our recent study showed that crime rates affect residents’ sense of security in their neighborhoods, and that these effects differ by the type of crime and spatial scale. Regarding violent crimes and home burglaries, crime rates for neighborhoods had a stronger effect on residents’ sense of security than those for school districts. This suggests that perceived crime rates are more in line with actual crime rates in smaller neighborhoods. Residents’ voluntary crime prevention activities in Japan are generally carried out in each neighborhood to promote a sense of security, and the results of our study are expected to directly benefit these activities and the public authorities supporting them. Regarding non-burglaries, crime rates for school districts had a stronger effect on residents’ sense of security than those for neighborhoods. This may be because information on non-burglaries is usually posted by police on bulletins such as neighborhood signboards at the site of the crime, and is therefore more widely disseminated.
The size of the relationship between official crime rates and residents’ sense of security in their neighborhood differed depending on individual attributes. Regarding age, sense of security was more in line with actual property crime (burglary and non-burglary) rates among the 35–49 age group, which may be because this group is primarily concerned with increasing their financial assets, and thereby most sensitive to property crime. The fact that women and the elderly (≥65 years) were only more sensitive to violent crime was likely due to their relatively higher vulnerability.
Regarding sex, sense of security was more in line with crime rates among men; this may be because traditionally, men are expected to bear the primary responsibility for the safety of their family. Although being a man has a positive effect on sense of security, we found that being a father has a negative effect, which is a unique result of our study. This finding may be because fathers collect crime information for their families via email services that deliver notifications to parents of schoolchildren. Thus the sex differences observed may have been due to the degree of exposure to crime information, as well as the traditional values noted above.
We also verified that social capital had a strong positive effect on residents’ sense of security. This could be because neighborhoods with strong social capital tend to have more active residential patrol programs, which could promote an increased sense of security among residents. Nevertheless, three types of crime rates had significant and robust relationships with sense of security among neighborhood residents, even when controlling for social capital and individual attributes.
Regarding the difference between fear of crime and sense of security, domestic research showed that women and individuals in their thirties and forties had more fear of crime, whereas individuals over 60 years of age had less. In our study, in terms of sense of security, individuals
The relationship between official crime rate, sense of security, fear of crime, individual and family attributes, and neighborhood attributes is shown in the Figure below. Official crime rates affect fear of crime via sense of security. The effect of neighborhood attributes varies by individual attributes. Our study provided supporting evidence to the presence of a relationship between official crime rates, sense of security, individual and family attributes, and social capital.
As noted at the outset, Japan has a lower crime rate compared to the rest of the world but the sense of security is lower. We attribute it to weakening social capital. The OECD (2011), which regards Japan as one of the safest among its 34 member countries, has pointed out weaknesses in relation to the social capital of Japanese people. To improve sense of security, various policies that aim to build social capital are needed, as well as improved crime prevention by the police. The Adachi Ward, which is located in the northeastern part of Tokyo, has a population of 678,000 and is known for undertaking serious efforts to reduce crime and improve sense of security. It has recently introduced various measures to strengthen social ties or bonds and prevent vulnerable populations, especially the elderly, from becoming isolated. These types of measures are also expected to be useful in improving sense of security in the ward.
Figure. Relationship between official crime rate, sense of security, fear of crime, individual and family attributes, and neighborhood attributes
Kimihiro Hino, PhD, is an associate professor at the Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate school of Engineering, The University of Tokyo. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate school of Engineering, The University of Tokyo. His current research interests include crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) and citizen participation in crime prevention activities.
Masaya Uesugi, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher at Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University and a research fellow of the Japan Society of the Promotion of Science. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate school of Engineering, The University of Tokyo. His current research interests include urban neighborhoods, residential environment and spatial analysis.
Yasushi Asami, Ph.D., is a professor at the Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Regional Science, University of Pennsylvania. His current research interests include residential environment, housing policy and urban planning.