Media and the Public Perception of Crime

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In the United States, violent crime has been steadily declining since its peak in the early 1990s (Lott, 2013). Violent crime, as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, includes four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault (FBI, 2012). These crimes are measured by the Justice Department in terms of number reported by victims as well as those tried and convicted in a court of law (FBI, 2012). Despite the steady decrease, the vast majority of Americans admit to possessing a very genuine fear of violent crime both in their local neighborhoods and in the nation at large (Lott, 2013). When surveyed over the last several years, nearly half of the American population consistently believed violent crime had increased from the year prior (Cohn, 2013). In reality, the instances of violent crime had been and continue to be deteriorating at a rapid pace (Cohn, 2013).
What factors contribute to this significant gap between perceptions of violent crime and the reality of it? When asked where they obtain their information about crime, an overwhelming plurality of random participants ages 13 to 59 responded with the mass media (Warr, 2013). In the context of this survey and also this paper, the mass media is defined as diverse mainstream media technologies intended to reach a widespread audience (Warr, 2013). This encompasses all television, radio, internet, and paper outlets which broadcast to a wide range of audiences
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