Factors Affecting Perceptions of Safety in a Campus Environment
Individuals' perceptions of their safety from crime in an environment is determined by a variety of factors including personal experience of a place, its physical appearance, and characteristics of the individual. This perception may affect how the place is used, regardless of the actual occurrence of assaults in that area. Male and female students at the University of Illinois campus at Urbana-Champaign were mailed surveys that asked how safe they felt in eighteen specific campus areas and to rate what factors contribute to their feelings of danger in a particular area. The areas students felt to be most dangerous were not areas that were statistically the most dangerous. Design elements, such as lack of lighting, were more likely to be mentioned as contributing to a feeling of danger than were personal experiences of a place. Female students generally had lower safety ratings for areas than did men, and they were more likely to report using place avoidance behaviors in order to cope with the threat of assault. The findings of this study imply that the perceived safety of an area may be directly modified through design and management decisions.