App tracks fear of crime and personal safety

PhD candidate Michael Chataway, right, with supervisor Dr Tim Hart.

A mobile app which measures people’s fear of crime will soon be implemented on the Gold Coast as part of a Griffith University PhD study.

The pilot study led by Michael Chataway aims to examine people’s fear of crime in their natural environment.

“Much of what we have learnt over the past 50 years about people’s perceptions of crime and victimisation risk has been gathered from paper-pencil surveys and has been limited to where individuals live,’’ he said.

“But these surveys haven’t been able to clearly pinpoint how perceptions of crime change based on when and where people are during the day.

“For example, people may feel more at risk of personal victimisation at night in the CBD, compared to during the day in the suburbs.”

Feelings of fear and victimisation risk may be further shaped by a person’s immediate environment, such as a lack of capable bystanders in an area.

“Using features that already exist in mobile devices, such as GPS, the study aims to provide a clearer picture of how structural and social characteristics of the proximate environment affect people’s feelings of safety and risk.

“We hope the results will help inform public policy on crime and safety.


Using the iExperience data collection platform, developed by Griffith University’s App Factory and available on Apple’s App store, the movements of study volunteers will be tracked.

When they enter pre-defined areas of the Gold Coast, they will automatically be prompted to complete a questionnaire, inputting data directly into their mobile device.

The researchers hope this approach to collecting fear of crime data will provide a new insight into patterns and trends in crime fear and perceptions of victimisation risk.

To find out more about this project, visit Griffith University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s iExperience website.