Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this research project was to achieve a greater understanding of the perceptions and fear of crime among recent immigrants in Waterloo Region, including how recent immigrants define crime, the types of activities that recent immigrants considered to be criminal in both Canada and their countries of origin, and how perceptions of crime are similar and different among the various countries that the participants represented. Furthermore, in this study I hoped to identify the types of crime(s) that recent immigrants in Waterloo Region fear and the factors that may be important in explaining fear of crime among recent immigrants. I began by establishing a Community Advisory Board of key informants from the community to guide the entire research process. Then I conducted three focus groups (N=16) and employed a brief questionnaire (N=18), using a mixed methods approach to data collection. Concerns about intimate relationships, children, and driving motor vehicles were three major themes that emerged from the focus group data. For example, the majority of crime differences that participants highlighted related to different aspects of intimate relationships, children, and driving. Moreover, several crimes in Canada and common practices of Canadian citizens that “surprised” participants were related to these three themes. Furthermore, participants were most fearful of crimes associated with children and driving. The focus group findings revealed that the participants provided accurate definitions of crime, but they tended to identify types of crime in Canada that were similar to laws in their countries of origin. There was an overall belief among participants that crime was similar all over the world. However, when asked to give concrete examples of difference in crime in Canada and one’s former country, participants provided several examples of how crime differed. In addition, participants rated their level of fear for 16 specific crimes that occur in Waterloo Region. The majority of participants were either afraid or very afraid of 11 of the 16 specific crimes presented in the questionnaire. I also examined levels of fear for the 16 specific crimes in relation to 11 predictor variables such as age, gender, country of origin, place of residence, and length of stay in Canada. Place of residence was the strongest predictor of a general fear of crime, with those individuals living in the city of Kitchener having higher levels of fear of crime than Cambridge residents. In addition, newcomers who rented their current place of residence were generally more fearful of crime than homeowners, as were individuals 35 years of age or older. Repeatedly, the predictor variables were correlated with one or more of the 16 specific crimes that related to the three major themes that emerged from the qualitative data. For example, country of origin was significantly correlated with increased levels of fear of someone bullying one’s children. In addition, being a previous victim of a crime in Canada was related to a greater fear of being hurt by a dangerous driver and having one’s motor vehicle stolen. Also, the fewer number of friendships that individuals had with individuals born in Canada was significantly related to increased levels of fear for both dangerous and impaired driving. Furthermore, place of residence was correlated with fear of being sexually assaulted and being killed by someone the participants knew. Thus, intimate relationships, children, and driving were not only prevalent in the qualitative findings, but also within the quantitative data. Overall, the findings suggest that obtaining an understanding of the experiences that newcomers face in adjusting to cultural, social, and political diversity in their host country may be helpful in explaining perceptions and fear of crime among recent immigrants. Based on the participants’ responses, it is clear that newcomers are not educated about crime and the criminal justice system in Canada before they immigrate to this country or upon arrival. Accordingly, I made recommendations for national policies and community practice4s to increase knowledge among newcomers about crime in Canada. Lastly, I discussed implications of the research findings and provided recommendations for future research.

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