There has always been a close connection between crime and fear. Criminals seek to instill an atmosphere of fear in order to prey on a community. The criminal element acts in opposition to the order and safety that the leaders of a neighborhood or city seek to integrate into it. In what ways does fear support the criminal and help to empower crime within a community?
The criminal element of a community acts outside of the boundaries that enable it to be safe, secure, and prosperous. Crime is any action that runs contrary to the welfare of the general public or to the general interests of the authorities who oversee the community. Laws are implemented in a society in order to create a sense of order, peace and purpose. When laws are flouted, it creates a sense of uncertainty in the way a person lives. Instead of feeling the freedom to go where he or she pleases, the loss of safety and order begins to limit the choices that a person has. Having to adjust a person’s lifestyle in such a way lessens the quality of life and creates a sense of distrust within the community. Loss of order reduces the willingness of the members of a neighborhood to trust each other, raises suspicions, and destroys the sense of unity that enhances any group of people living in close proximity to one another. Neighborhoods rely upon a sense of working together to remain strong and loss of control and order leads to ruin and destruction within it.
As crime increases within a particular area, the sense of unease can quickly build into real fear. Fear is an emotion in response to a real or perceived threat from another person or persons. It is a survival mechanism that induces a person to pull away from a particular place and to hide away in order to avoid pain or possible death. As fear increases, the individual can become overcome and unable to live a normal lifestyle. Continual concern for personal safety can cause an individual to become worried about every person, every noise, and anything that is unexpected. The psychological toll of living in fear can break down a person’s mental and physical condition and prevent him or her from having a good quality of life. Living in fear leads each individual to act in separation from others and prevents the kind of group interaction that is so necessary for a community to grow and prosper. The isolation of fear allows individuals to be preyed upon by a criminal element that acts in unison for its own benefit without concern for the general state of the community in which it acts.
As fear increases in a community and the positive element is lost in public areas, crime can increase and grow. The criminal element is thwarted by the public presence of those acting for the good of the community as a whole. When fear drives such people into safety and hiding in isolation, the criminal is free to act with greater and greater impunity. Knowledge that he or she can act without the concern of a strong, positive leadership element allows the criminal to engage in more and more heinous actions. As crime becomes more widespread and more heinous, the sense of fear continues to grow and the quality of life within such a neighborhood continues to deteriorate. The greater this deterioration, the less those within it see any hope for the quality of life to increase and the more that isolation grows. Fear drives off those who would seek to improve the community for the benefit of all and those who remain are either those who are too weak to act or who act merely for their own benefit. Fear enables the criminal element to take control of an area and act without fear of opposition.
A growing sense of fear gives those in power an aura out of proportion to their real strength. Creating a sense of fear enables a criminal to perform acts out of proportion to his or her real power because it saps the will of others who would oppose such actions. Crime spreads because those who can act are unwilling to do so. Those living in fear lose the desire to help others and care only for themselves. Looking out for personal safety becomes the only factor in determining what should be done and the weak and helpless are left as easy prey for the criminals. When the members of a community no longer believe that there is any hope for it to get better or any reason to believe that the neighborhood serves a positive purpose, that place will quickly be given over to those who want to use it merely for personal gain. Fear saps the sense of order and purpose that brings life and vitality and creates a place of darkness and disorder that enables crime to thrive. The more that the psychological toll of fear weighs on a group of people, the more real the sense of disorder and darkness will feel, and the less willing anyone within the group will be to work together to make it better.
Fear is an isolating emotion. It drives a person to seek personal safety at all costs in separation from the group. The greater the emotion of fear, the easier it is for the criminal element to act without opposition. Fear saps the desire to make things better and empowers the criminal element with a power out of proportion to reality. The criminal relies upon others to look away and seek their own safety in order to prey on those who are unable to stand up against him or her. Crime is as much an emotional attack as a physical one. The criminal seeks to break down order and safety in a neighborhood in order to isolate the individuals within it and to weaken the sense of united purpose that makes it strong. Fear is the greatest weapon in the arsenal of the criminal to prey upon a community and take from it whatever he or she desires.