in RIA Full Referenced Reports

CRIMINAL BEWARE: A SOCIAL NORMS
PERSPECTIVE ON POSTING PUBLIC
WARNING SIGNS*
P. WESLEY SCHULTZ
JENNIFER J. TABANICO
Department of Psychology
California State University, San Marcos
KEYWORDS: social norms, descriptive norms, crime prevention, Focus
Theory of Normative Conduct, fear of crime
Recent studies have suggested that crime-prevention strategies tend to
interact with characteristics of the community in such a way that what
works in one community might not work in another. In this article, we
extend this finding to fear of crime and residents’ perceptions of crime
using a Focus Theory of Normative Conduct framework. Data are
reported from three experiments that examine the impact of publicly
posted Neighborhood Watch signs on perceived crime rates and worry
about victimization. The studies used a virtual community tour to
assess the causal impact of Neighborhood Watch sign presence and
content. Across the experiments, we consistently find the potential for
publicly posted Neighborhood Watch signs to produce unintended consequences
such as increased fear of crime and worry about victimization.
Moreover, the outcomes associated with posting the signs are
influenced not only by the information printed on the sign but also by
an interaction between the signs themselves and the environmental context
in which they are posted.