Do We Have Mean World Syndrome?

There’s an interesting article in Seattle Times about perception of crime compared to rate of crime in Seattle’s neighborhoods. I remember taking that survey. The article is here.

The author analyzed results from Seattle University Department of Justice’s annual survey on perceptions of crime in Seattle. For SPD policing planning, Pinehurst fits into two different neighborhood plans  – the part east of 15th Ave NE is in the Lake City area, while west of 15th Ave NE is part of the Northgate area.  Here are the numbers for those two neighborhoods:

Lake City

Fear of crime is reported at 45.8 out of a possible 100, while rate of crime is 40 crimes per 1000 people.


Fear of crime is reported at 49.3 out of a possible 100, while rate of crime is 78 crimes per 1000 people.

The average fear of crime in Seattle is 45.4 out of 100. You can see an interactive map in the article (see link above.)

Paraphrasing from the article:

There is a phenomenon known as the ‘mean world syndrome’ that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is.

A number of factors contribute to this sense of fear, including reading or watching a lot of news, or hyperlocal websites like, where neighbors frequently post about crime.

A person who is a high media consumer will believe the world is a much more dangerous place than his or her neighbor who is a low media consumer.

Past personal experience with victimization can also contribute to the sense of fear an individual feels. So can certain demographic characteristics, like age or gender, that might put a person at higher risk for certain types of crime.

Visible signs of disorder within a neighborhood — things like broken windows, graffiti, disorderly behavior, and so on — can make a place feel more dangerous, too.

So my question is, are we whipping up fear of crime, and fomenting discomfort living in Pinehurst by talking about crime in our Facebook group and on NextDoor. etc? Would we all be happier if we didn’t report crimes and suspicious activities on social media? Should we stop? Or is it useful?


1 comment to Do We Have Mean World Syndrome?

  • Although I’m generally a pretty low media consumer, being aware of the prevalence of mail theft in our neighborhood or suspicious characters prowling around. Being informed of these local issues has been helpful in realizing packages and mail should be secured as soon as possible. That hasn’t prevented me from being victimized a few times when the thieves were faster than I was, but maybe the incidence has been minimized.

    I don’t read newspapers, the daily email neighborhood crime report, or even watch TV news very often. It’s all too negative and fear inducing. I rely on friends to let me know if the sky is falling, and just try to live as safely as possible, be prudent about locking things up, and keep a positive attitude. Knock on wood, I haven’t experienced serious crime for many years.

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