Public Opinion, Media, & the Crime Problem

Come to this class already familiar with the issue of crime; the problem of crime. You have opinions about the causes of crime.

Sources of knowledge: Media, family and friends, personal experience.

 

Talk with family and friends about crime; direct or indirect victim of crime.

 

Take a moment to think about “what do we know about crime”?

 

1

 

Mini-survey

 

What percentage of convicted felony defendants are found guilty by a jury instead of a judge?

 

How much of the average police officer’s time is spent “fighting crime” as opposed to other duties?

 

About how many people die each year from homicides?

 

What percentage of all felonies in a given year lead to someone being convicted of a felony and imprisoned?

 

What does the typical criminal in the U.S. look like?

 

2

 

Fewer than 10% of felons are found guilty by a jury trial.

 

10-20% of an officer’s time is spent “fighting crime”.

 

About 16K homicides each year.

 

Less than 10% of felonies each year lead to imprisonment.

 

The typical criminal is not restricted to those who are poor and nonwhite (see Reiman).

 

3

 

Public Perceptions of Crime

 

Crime is a Serious Social Problem.

 

Rising crime rates, esp. violent crime.

 

Terrorism, Gangs, Sex Offenders

 

Fear of Crime

 

Politicians and claimsmakers

 

CJ Policies and CJ populations

 

Comparisons with other countries

 

Personal experiences

 

Media

 

List things you do in your everyday life to reduce your chances of becoming a crime victim.

 

Lock doors, alarm systems, own/carry a gun/weapon, own a dog; avoid certain places; careful when/where you walk alone.

 

Mostly fearful of strangers, unfamiliar locations, at night, when alone.

 

Most fearful of “crime” in the abstract; few specific fears.

 

Some fear crime more than others.

 

4

 

Public Perceptions of Crime

 

Gallup Poll: Crime Trends, Crime in US

 

60%: more crime in the US this year than last

 

25%: less crime in the US this year than last

 

Public Perceptions of Crime

 

Crime in Local Area

 

42% less crime in local area than year before

 

39% more crime in local area than year before

 

Public Perceptions of Crime

 

Crime as a Serious Social Problem

 

2018:

 

Extremely – 16%

 

Very – 32%

 

Somewhat – 41%

 

Not too – 7%

 

Not at all – 2%

 

No opinion – 1%

 

Public Perceptions of Crime

 

Crime as a Serious Problem in Local Area

 

Consistent trends over past 10 years

 

Different trends compared to US

 

2018:

 

Extremely – 2% Very – 7% Somewhat – 32%

 

Not too – 36% Not at all – 32% No opinion – 1%

 

https://news.gallup.com/poll/1603/crime.aspx

 

Fear of Crime

 

Percent Worry Frequently/Occasionally – 2018

  %

Identity Theft Being Hacked (computer passwords, credit card numbers, etc.) Having your car stolen or broken into 67 70 37

Your home being burglarized when you are not there 40

Being the victim of terrorism *decrease from 39% in 2010 24*

Having a school-aged child of yours physically harmed attending school 32

Getting mugged 25

Your home being burglarized when you are there 22

Being attacked while driving your car 22

Being sexually assaulted 20

Being a victim of a hate crime *increase from 16% in 2010 22*

Getting murdered 17

Being assaulted/killed by a co-worker/employee where you work 7

Fear of Crime vs. Victimization

 

In the past 12 months, have you or a member of your household been a victim of … (2018)

  % NO

Identity Theft Being Hacked (computer passwords, credit card numbers, etc.) Having your car stolen or broken into 84 75 99

Your home being burglarized when you are not there 97

Getting mugged 98

Attacked with a weapon 99

Being sexually assaulted 98

Have you EVER been a victim of … (2018)

Crime of physical or threatened harm 80

Fear of Crime Trends

 

Fear of Crime Comparisons

 

Fear of crime: Individual characteristics

 

Women and elderly most fearful of crime.

 

Least likely to be victimized than men or younger people.

 

Exception for women is in the case of rape.

 

Women’s fear of crime=fear of rape

 

Shadow Hypothesis

 

Explained by perception of physical vulnerability.

 

Minorities are more fearful.

 

Poor are more fearful.

 

Race and class relationship with fear of crime is partly explained by structural factors and media coverage.

 

Race and class relationship with fear of crime is partly explained by structural factors and media coverage.

 

13

 

Fear of crime: Structural factors

 

Where you live

 

How well you know your neighbors

 

Quality of living conditions

 

% nonwhite residents

 

Actual crime rates

 

Don’t matter too much

 

Subjective perceptions of crime and vulnerability are better predictors of fear of crime

 

Subjective perceptions of both crime and structural.

 

14

 

Fear of crime: Media representations

 

Triangular relationship

 

4 hypotheses tested in Weitzer and Kubrin article.

 

Real world hypothesis

 

Cultivation hypothesis

 

Substitution hypothesis

 

Resonance hypothesis

 

4 hypotheses tested in Weitzer and Kubrin article.

 

Real world hypothesis

 

Cultivation hypothesis

 

Substitution hypothesis

 

Resonance hypothesis

 

15

 

MEDIA

 

CRIME EXPERIENCE

 

FEAR

 

Media Representations of Crime

 

How much crime is represented in the mass media, esp. news and TV shows?

 

What types of crimes?

 

What types of offenders?

 

Thinking question: If you were a newspaper editor or TV news director, what sorts of stories would you cover and why? What if you were in charge of nightly programming for a TV network? (Think about the questions from the mini-survey).

 

Dramatic, violent, jury trials: capture audience and boost ratings.

 

16

 

Overdramatization of Crime

 

Over-reporting of violent crime

 

Crime waves

 

Unusual rather than representative

 

Stereotypical

 

Violent youth

 

Virtuous victims

 

If it bleeds it leads.

 

Crime is most popular story in news accounting for about 20% of all stories, 4 minutes of a 30 minute broadcast (tied with sports, behind commercials.

 

Homicides account for ¼ of all crime stories in TV and newspaper. (% varies from 12 – 50 % depending on city).

 

Also think about the types of crimes presenting in crime dramas.

 

What about violence/crime in children’s entertainment.

 

Overdramatize crime by depicting so many stories about it.

 

Crime waves make crime seem rampant and on the rise.

 

Present unusual cases rather than the typical crime (halloween sadists, kidnapping of children, and serial killers).

 

Media also present stereotypical images of crime and criminals esp. concerning racial and ethnic minorities.

 

Disporportionate attention to minorities’ crimes

 

Portray minority offenders in menacing contexts

 

Underestimates minority victimization

 

Reinforces negative stereotypes about minorties. Which increases fear of crime.

 

Violent youth: 14% of violent crime is committed by youth; 1% of all teenagers are arrested annually for violent crime.

 

Virtuous victims: innocent victims, elderly and children, wealthy; helps foster greater public concern about crime.

 

17

 

Media also:

 

Selective interviews.

 

Use value-laden language instead of neutral terms.

 

Present misleading data.

 

Neglect forms of white-collar crime.

 

Ignore broader social context/patterns.

 

Contribute to public misunderstanding of the crime problem and public’s fear of crime. Public opinion can be traced to fear of crime. Media fuels our fears.

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