Guide News and Society: Crime

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However, they did not find the source of crime news to be a factor in fear of crime.

Coverage pushes in certain directions

In addition, their findings indicate that crime show viewers were more likely to worry about being sexually assaulted; getting beaten up, knifed or shot; and getting killed. Researchers argue that public fear and anxiety is inextricably connected with public pressure for solutions to crime problems. A number of research studies focus on whether media depictions of crime influence public attitudes towards criminal justice policy. They find that presentations of crime news increase public pressure for more effective policing Garofalo, a and more punitive responses to crime Barille, ; Surette, Furthermore, Surette claims that the news media feature agents of crime control as negatively ineffective and incompetent which results in support for more police, more prisons, and more money for the criminal justice system.

Reith finds that for white males, crime show viewing is related to high levels of aggression towards those who break the law, and low levels against those who defend it. She also found that fear of victimization and fear of victimization based on real life experiences did not have a mediating effect on the relationship. In addition, Oliver and Armstrong find that frequent viewing and greater enjoyment of reality-based crime shows are related to holding punitive attitudes.

However, frequent viewing and greater enjoyment of fictional crime shows are not related to holding punitive attitudes. Public attitudes toward police are generally positive Huang and Vaughn, Much of the literature focuses on media portrayals of police officers and findings reveal two conflicting views. Some researchers argue that the police are presented favorably in the media, while other research suggests that the police are negatively portrayed in the media. Presentations of police are often over-dramatized and romanticized by fictional television crime dramas while the news media portray the police as heroic, professional crime fighters Surette, ; Reiner, In television crime dramas, the majority of crimes are solved and criminal suspects are successfully apprehended Dominick, ; Estep and MacDonald, ; Carlson, ; Kooistra et al.

Similarly, news accounts tend to exaggerate the proportion of offenses that result in arrest which projects an image that police are more effective than official statistics demonstrate Sacco and Fair, ; Skogan and Maxfield, ; Marsh, ; Roshier, Reporting of proactive police activity creates an image of the police as effective and efficient investigators of crime Christensen, Schmidt and Henderson, Accordingly, a positive police portrayal reinforces traditional approaches to law and order that involves increased police presence, harsher penalties and increasing police power Sacco, In addition, a number of researchers suggest that a symbiotic relationship exists between news media personnel and the police.

The Media’s Influence on Criminal justice policy

It is suggested that the police and the media engage in a mutually beneficial relationship. The media needs the police to provide them with quick, reliable sources of crime information, while the police have a vested interest in maintaining a positive public image Ericson, Baranek, and Chan, ; Fishman, ; Hall et al, For example, Surette claims that docu-dramas and news tabloid programs represent the police as heroes that fight evil, yet print and broadcast news personify the police as ineffective and incompetent.

Likewise, Graber claims that the general public evaluates police performance more favorably compared with courts and correction. Nevertheless, Graber states that the media provides little information to judge police and that the news media focus on negative criticism rather than positive or successful crime prevention efforts. In essence, most media crime is punished, but policemen are rarely the heroes Lichter and Lichter, Prior research suggests that public knowledge about crime and justice is largely derived from the media Roberts and Doob, ; Surette, This research seeks to build on previous research by addressing three research questions:.

What is the relationship between media consumption and public ratings of police effectiveness?

Sensing the public's reaction to crime news using the ‘Links Correspondence Method’

Police effectiveness, fear of crime and punitive attitudes are important aspects of public attitudes toward crime and justice in the United States. First, police strategies reflect departmental values, which reflect community values. Negative or positive attitudes towards the police may influence police policy making and strategy. Second, citizen attitudes toward the police may influence decisions to report crime.

Third, both fear of crime and punitive attitudes may influence policy making and law making by government agencies, as public support or opposition may determine policy. The survey is cross-sectional and samples are stratified to all U. The purpose of the NOSCJ is to provide knowledge about American attitudes toward crime and justice issues, which may lead to more informed criminal justice policy and practice. The survey examines a number of issues, such as attitudes toward courts, police, neighborhood problems, juvenile gangs, drug laws, death penalty, gun control, prisons, and worries about crime.

In addition to basic demographic characteristics, NOSCJ captures information about hours of television viewing, crime show viewing and source of crime news. Respondents are asked if they worry about sexual assault; car-jacking; getting mugged; getting beaten up, knifed or shot; getting murdered; being burglarized while at home; and being burglarized while no one is at home.

Reliability analysis reveals an alpha of. Each question has a four-category response ranging from a great deal, some, little, and none at all. Each question has a five-category response ranging from very high, high, average, low, and very low. For the scaling purposes, very low and low were combined into one category. The category response range from serious problem, somewhat of a problem, minor problem, and not a problem at all. Higher scores indicate positive appraisals towards police effectiveness and lower scores indicate negative appraisals of political effectiveness.

Punitive justice attitudes are measured by using 11 items. These questions were categorical in nature and for scaling purposes they were dummy coded. Table one presents the items that are scaled to identify those who hold punitive attitudes toward crime and justice. The scale ranges from 0 punitive attitudes to 1 non-punitive attitudes. The scores range from 0 highly punitive to 11 non-punitive and the average score for respondents is four.

The alpha level of punitive attitude scale is. Nevertheless, one limitation is equating punitive attitudes with retributive attitudes.

Historically, the notion of retribution meant "an eye for an eye" and emphasized "harsh" punishment. However, the concept of retribution has evolved and includes the concept of just deserts. The central principle of just deserts is proportionality; the severity of the punishment should be proportional to the gravity of the offense. Punitiveness is more concerned with the prevention and reduction of crime through deterrence principles Von Hirsch, However, it is unclear whether survey respondents understand the differences between punitiveness and retribution.

The media variables include crime-show viewing, television hours and crime news source. Crime-show viewing is measured by asking respondents if they are frequent viewers of a television crime show.


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Finally, respondents were asked the primary source of crime news. A number of control variables are employed in this research to ensure that media effects are properly measured. Demographic variables such as race, gender, age, income, residence, level of education, and marital status are employed in the analysis.

Race, income, residence, level of education and marital status are dummy-coded. Respondents were asked to rate the seriousness of a number of issues in their neighborhood. Higher scores indicate high levels of problems in the neighborhood, whereas lower scores indicate low levels of problems in the neighborhood.

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The analytic strategy is to examine the relationship between media variables and fear of crime, perceived police effectiveness and punitive justice attitudes. The first step is to conduct univariate and bivariate analysis.

The next step is to employ multivariate regression models using the ordinary least squares. Three models will be developed to examine the dependent variables, which will include fear of crime, punitive justice attitudes and perceived police effectiveness. The first model will examine the association between crime-show viewing, newspaper as primary source of crime news, hours of television per week and fear of crime.

The [End page ] control variables will include age, race, residence, marital status, income, gender, problems in neighborhood, and perception of police effectiveness. The second model will examine the association between crime-show viewing, newspapers as primary source of crime news, hours of television viewing and punitive justice attitudes. We will employ the same control variables as step one, except that we will include fear of crime as an independent variable.

The final step is to examine the association between crime-show viewing, newspapers as primary source of crime news, hours of television viewing and perceived police effectiveness. We will employ age, race, residence, marital status, income, gender, neighborhood problems, fear of crime and punitive attitudes as control variables. The scaled variables were employed as both dependent and control variables. On a scale of eight to thirty-two, the respondents score On a scale from 0 to 11, respondents mean score is 4. Socio-demographic characteristics of the sample indicate that 7.

The results of correlation analysis are also included in table 2.


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The results indicate that viewing crime shows is significantly related to fear of crime and perceived police effectiveness. Regular viewers of crime shows are more likely to fear or worry about crime. Similarly, regular crime drama viewers are more likely to hold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness. The bivariate analysis indicates that newspaper as primary source of crime news and hours of television viewing are not significantly related to fear of crime, punitive attitudes or perceived police effectiveness.

In addition, the results indicate that white, married, and low-income 15k to 30k respondents are more likely to have punitive attitudes, whereas black, college educated, and respondents with low appraisals of police effectiveness are less likely to have punitive attitudes.

Complexity of what is covered or not

The results also indicate that older respondents, males and respondents with low perception of neighborhood problems are more likely to have low fear of crime, whereas, younger respondents, female, Hispanic, college-educated and respondents with low appraisals of police effectiveness are more likely to fear crime. Finally, bivariate results suggest that Hispanic, African-American, urban, and younger respondents are more likely to have negative or low appraisals of police effectiveness.

Conversely, respondents with punitive attitudes, with a medium income 30k to 60k , older, white, with low perceptions of neighborhood problems are more likely to have positive or high appraisals of police effectiveness. However, there may be a number of factors that mitigate or enhance the relationships.