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The businesses behind fear

January 26, 2023

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Photo by Pexels user Rafael Classen

Fear is one of life’s constants. We’re all going to feel it at some point, with varying reasons why. Humans have no problem identifying fear in our lives, says Ralph Adolphs, a social behavioral researcher at the California Institute of Technology. Science hasn’t quite decided how to examine it, he adds — but it seems like businesses have. 

Adolphs argues that fear is a response to threatening stimuli that motivates us to act and react in different ways.

One of those responses is to stock up on goods and services. Companies have taken note — either to help their customers or capitalize on those worries.

For example, the fear of home robberies or burglaries — combined with the ubiquity and affordability of modern technology — has made Amazon’s Ring camera doorbell one of the most popular home purchases in recent years.

In the four years after its 2012 invention by Jamie Siminoff, Ring Doorbell sold more than 1 million devices worldwide, SafeHome.org found. Two years later in 2018, Siminoff sold the company to Amazon for over $1 billion.

In 2020, Ring was the leading contender in doorbell security and one of the highest sales in smart technology. Ring sold more than 400,000 devices worldwide in Dec. 2020 alone, SafeHome.org reported.

Various police departments across the country, but not all, have reported data to the FBI about local violent and property crimes. With that data, Pew Research published a report noting that crime has decreased since the ‘90s. Overall, property crime has decreased 55% since 1993 and burglaries have dropped 63%.

Statista, a market and consumer data website, reported a near 40% decrease in household burglaries from 2011-2021. Pew noted that Americans believe crime is on the rise nationwide, however the data suggests otherwise. Besides being inversely related, there are no current direct connections between the decrease in burglaries and the increase in Ring doorbell or other security systems in and around homes. 

A primary reason people purchased the Ring doorbell was to keep an eye on their house, but since burglaries aren’t happening as often, did Ring become a trend that people hopped on or did the fear of crime cause the boom?

Home security systems have been shown to be effective in deterring crime. Studies performed by the criminology and criminal justice departments at both Rutgers University of Criminal Justice and the University of North Carolina Charlotte determined that home security systems scare off burglars. 

These studies, though, were conducted more than a decade ago, in 2009 and 2013 respectively. Little research has been released to the public now that home security cameras have sprouted up in apartment homes and suburban neighborhoods alike. 

Camera doorbells aren’t the only product profiting off of fear. According to a 2022 report by Market Research Future, smart personal safety and security devices on the market are likely experiencing rapid growth for multiple reasons. There’s a demand for user-friendly and unconventional safety systems. Following pandemic-related concerns about personal health and safety, as well as a rise in hate crimes nationwide, brands manufacturing devices like rape whistles and pepper spray emerged in the market as a response, they reported.

There are plenty of other things that we buy to ease fears, too. Examine how fear could lead to purchasing in these industries too:

  • Female safety 
  • Gun sales
  • Online protection
  • Child safety
  • Car preparation
  • Pet care

There are plenty of story ideas that involve how we’ve bought into our fears to arm ourselves with protection and preparedness for whatever comes our way. These technological advancements and personal purchases are all around us. 

How have these devices helped? What have they hurt? And what will be the next big thing?


  • Lauren Irwin

    Lauren is a breaking news reporter at The Hill in Washington D.C. after earning her master's degree in mass communication at Arizona State University.

    Lauren completed her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Political Science at...

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