The Media & Fear of Crime
Critical criminology. Emphasises the relationship between
routine, everyday life, and the surrounding
Fear of crime. State of anxiety/alarm brought about by
the feeling that one is at risk of criminal
Left realism. Radical criminological perspective that
views crime as a natural and inevitable
outcome of class inequalities and
patriarchy and which proposes to take
both crime and fear of crime seriously.
Legitimacy. Process by which a group/institution
achieves and maintains public support for
Policing. Diverse array of tasks, skills and
procedures involving monitoring,
regulation, protection and enforcement.
Victimisation. Experience of being a victim of crime.
Penal populism. Notion that, with declining faith in the
formal structures and procedures of the CJ
establishment and growing alarm that
crime is out of control, the public support
more punitive and retributive crime
control and sentencing policies.
Crime on the rise?
Large majority of the public have inaccurate views about the occurrence
of crime and the severity of sentencing.
o Media presents crime stories in ways which selectively mutilate
and distort public perceptions – creates a false picture of crime.
Majority of Australians believe crime is on the rise when it isn’t.
o Less than 10% of all crimes are violent but 19/20 say it is higher
o Begs the question, why is there such a gap between public
perception and official statistics.
People who rely on the entertainment media have less accurate
perceptions of crime than people who use others.
o Suggests the media are guilty of manipulating the picture of crime
(not just statistics, public fears of crime).
Interpersonal crime are consistently overreported – because particularly
violent and sexual events are consistently over represented in relation to
Police reinforce what journos write and journos write what police show
Not only news media that distorts, popular culture exercises a significant
influence on our view of crime. o Contains a large amount of info and images pertaining to fear, and
some audience and readers who digest them perceive social life as
They over represent the most serious crimes.
The nature of this relationship between media and fear of crime is
The mass media and the production of fear
Mass media and popular culture exercise significant influence on social
Whether or not we can resolve the question whether TV and newspaper
reports about crime and fear are a “cause” or “effect” of public concerns
about crime and fear, two things are clear:
o Pop culture includes a relatively large amount of info and images
pertaining to fear, including crime and violence.
o Audience members perceive social life as very dangerous.
o But the relationship between the two is unresolved and is the
subject of much discussion and debate in crime and the media
Different perspectives on fear of crime
Within criminology, discussions of public fears of crime tend to be
polarised along theoretical lines:
Critical criminological – Marxist (Cohen, Hall):
o Emphasise media’s role in agenda setting.
o While the mass media is not a singular force for promoting
dominant conservative ideologies; rather, these are the product of
intense conflict between various agents involved.
o The result – particularly in tabloid media and broadcast radio, is
the simplification of the problem and an emphasis on law
o The media’s manipulation of fear of crime results in “penal
populism” or “popular punitivism”.
o Conclude that fear of crime is irrational and unreasonable.
o Holds that what the public perceive are influenced by the people in
o Concerned about how the powerless are over policed –
overconcentration of crimes that focus on the young, non-Anglo,
working class, unemployed, etc. – lack of focus of crime involving,
white, educated and upper class.
o See it as a product of intense conflict – argue that the result of this
there’s an oversimplification and overemphasis on law and order
policies. Tell public they’re scared and then say they’re going to
take a law and order approach to make it better.
o By highlighting the crime problems, they effective