The Gallup survey of nearly 4,800 people in Houston found that 38 percent of them feel unsafe walking near their houses after sundown.
Luis Salinas is a sociology professor at the University of Houston. He holds the Gallup organization in high regard. But he says snapshot surveys like this don't include long-term trends.
"Violent crime rates have been going down for 15 to 20 years, not just in the country, but in Houston. And, so, we need to take the long-term approach into account when we're looking at these individual statistics."
Salinas says one factor driving today's feelings of insecurity is that people tend to remember bad news even after the actual danger has subsided. He puts part of the blame for that on what people constantly hear from outside sources.
"Politicians, community leaders, and even some religious leaders sort of harp on these negative aspects that are going on — maybe for personal motive or a personal goal."
Salinas says, as with violent crime, people to tend to think divorce and teen pregnancies happen more today than 20 years ago, when, in fact, the rates for all three have been on the decline.