Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gallup: Americans victimized less, think crime is worse

The mainstream media must shoulder much of the blame, I think, for the public's widespread ignorance about crime in the United States, if we are to believe the annual Gallup poll on public perceptions about crime. Most Americans think crime is getting worse:

But Americans are less likely to be victims of crime than at any time in recent memory:

(Click images to enlarge)

If you ask me, local broadcast media - especially nightly television broadcasts - are largely responsible for this persistent public disconnect. The reason can be summed up in five words that have come to characterize TV news decision making from the smallest market to the largest networks: "If it bleeds, it leads."

BLOGVERSATION: Karen Franklin says "There's more to it than that, of course. Opportunistic politicians playing on fear of crime as a sure-fire way to get votes comes to mind." Doc Berman looks at the same statistics and reaches an opposite conclusion: That the public must be particularly perceptive. I disputed his reasoning in the comments.

: Chris Kromm at Facing South examines murder rates in 10 southern states including Texas to discover they're lower across the board. Kromm agrees local TV news is partially to blame. "Combine that with national TV's endless parade of cop shows and court coverage, leavened with bouts of politicians stirring up crime hysteria (usually with racial overtones), and you have the makings of a national perception about crime far out of pace of reality."


Anonymous said...

Seem like pretty global questions if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Consider that what is now called 'identity theft' is not counted as crime. It is no wonder that the numbers are down for the crimes of impersonation, forgery, and fraud.

Fifty years ago if somebody falsely called you a deadbeat you could sue for slander and have them prosecuted for libel. Today there is no crime here: it is your responsibility to clear your name after they have dirtied it up by their own incompetence.

Consider that white collar criminals have informercials on broadcast television and that the police will not prosecute their crimes, nor will they take criminal reports.

The math is simple: no reports taken, no crimes to report.

We are now more likely to be victims of the police than of amateur criminals, and none of the police crimes get included in crime reports. It is so bad that people say with a straight face that there is a question of excessive use of force when they mean we know cops committed violent crimes yet will certainly go scot free.

Policing is a business. Their interest is only in the quick-buck venues. Like the man says in the song, it's money that matters.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Roy, FWIW, the stats presented here are for victimization by VIOLENT crime, not fraud, identity theft, etc.

Anonymous said...

My conclusion is a persons tolerance of criminal activity involves their self-evaluation of both their risk and vulnerability. Rural residents in general have low risk and high vulnerability suburban residents have risk and vulnerability in the low to moderate range and residents of high crime urban areas have high risk and vulnerability. In other words your attitude toward crime depends on where you live.

Another way to look at your graph is that the percentage of persons NOT victimized increased from 95% to 98% and most persons would not notice that small a difference.

The media can greatly influence a persons evaluation of risk. We have people in our community who will not go down town in the evening because they are afraid they will be hassled by drunks. This is because of local newspaper reports. If they go to the right part of town at 2:00 am it could happen but otherwise the risk is very small.

Anonymous said...

Perception is reality!

Why don't law enforcement entities focus public attention on their Public Safety efforts and the resulting benefit - reduction of risk for the public?

Could it be because criminal activity goes down in times of economic prosperity and increases during times of economic downturns? Public Safety policies and efforts have very little to do with the risk of being a victim of violent crime.

Of course no one wants to admit that policies and money spent on public safety doesn't change much!

Eddie G. Griffin said...

This is why we need to VOTE AGAINST Proposition 4. We don't need new jails and prisons. All we are doing is fattening GEO's construction contracts. Thanks Grits for posting this. I'll be back soon.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that violent crime is lower as a result of so many folks in prison?

The prison "boom" began at the peak, about 1994 or so...

Anonymous said...

Let's see, 1994 - that's about 13 years ago. If the average sentence (actual time served) for violent crimes is 7 years and the recidivism rate is 28%, that means that many many criminals are back in the "free world".

Given the math, if the idea is that the crime rate is down because criminals are in prison is pretty thin.

Don't forget that many many crimes do not result in prison time. Most get probation......and remain on the streets.

Did I miss something important here?

Anonymous said...

Also, don't forget that many many violent crimes go unpunished.

The idea that crime is down because more criminals are in prison is pretty shallow thinking.

The idea that crime is down because potential criminals fear prison is also pretty shallow thinking. Remember, most are not cought or punished.

The only thing putting criminals in prison for long periods of time without rehabilitation (which is not provided now) achieves is higher taxes!

Unknown said...

OH and don't forget- that many violent crimes don't even get investigated. Police are diverted from serving actual victims of real crime to commando style drug raids, undercover work, and chasing prostitutes and cruisers around the neighborhood.
And yes, in my community they spend a lot of time in schools looking for druggies and lying to the public about drugs. You can get away with a lot of kamikaze tactics that backfire if people are convinced that there some drugs can unilaterally alter someone from truly nice guy into a raving loon. I wonder why they hadn't even bothered to do peer reviewed scientific studies before they starting jailing "druggies".

Anonymous said...

The media's role in shaping public perception extends beyond the evening news. Haven't the top-rated television shows for the past decade or so been focused almost exclusively on violent crime? Pop culture consumers are bathed in violent crime--and seem to like it that way.

Anonymous said...

There is no correlation between crime rates, violent or not, and imprisonment rates.

Anonymous said...

It is possible that arrest rates could be correlated with jail bookings but I would not expect a correlation between arrest rates and prison admissions because acquittal, probation, work release and jail are competing outcomes.

In our county there are 70 jail bookings for every prison commitment and about 68% of the persons booked into jail are released within a day, 16% within a week, 8% within two weeks and the remaining 8% stay longer than three weeks and about one in two or three of them are sent to prison.

There are too many steps in the CJ process for there to be a simple relation between crime rates and incarceration rates.

Anonymous said...

Personally all the crime I see is on TV on the news. I think it is just reported a lot more now and with the internet it gets around a lot more. You hear the same stories over and over till they are wore out. There are tons of new laws that didn't exist in the past. You can go to jail and onto the big house now days for things that was just a ticket a few years back. You can have you drivers license taken away for tickets, even if you pay the tickets it cost more to get licenses and insurance, then if you get caught trying to go to work with suspended licenses you go to jail,you receive a record and you are forever remembered.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous said...
There is no correlation between crime rates, violent or not, and imprisonment rates.

10/25/2007 11:15:00 AM
Actually, there is a DIRECT correlation between decreasing violent crime rates and increasing incarceration rates in Texas. Chart them on a graph and see for yourself.

However, there is no proof that one causes the other. Causation is not correlation. People who don't know the difference should not be talking about it.

Anonymous said...

Lower crime rates - pshaw!!! They're cooking the books.