The yellow crime scene tape after two real estate agents were killed in a model home was frightening to people living in three Cobb County, Ga., neighborhoods accustomed to block parties, not police blockades, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the past eight months, four slayings in the upscale suburb have left residents deadbolting doors, turning on alarms, and taking note of every car idling on their streets.
The feeling of vulnerability caused by violent crimes can prompt people to buy guns, install expensive alarm systems, and mistrust the most innocent encounter. Psychologist Sarah Cook of Georgia State University professor said, “In studies, people report their fear of being a victim of a stranger is much higher than of being killed or harassed by someone they know, but in reality, stranger-on-stranger crime is relatively rare.” The neighborhoods where the killings occurred are low-crime areas, according to statistics. Cook said a person’s “feeling of safety,” rather than a rational calculation of the probability of becoming a victim, is what he or she uses to decide which areas are “safe” and which are “dangerous.”