The Media Reporting Of Crime Criminology Essay

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If crime has fallen to such an extent why is it that media reporting of crime levels indicate that the opposite is the case and what impact does that have on public perceptions of community safety

The Home Office has been publishing statistics on crime for over 150 years. Until the 1980s it was largely reliant on police figures and in many other countries this is still the case. Statistics come from police records are a measure of police activity and are often used to gain an understanding of the performance of the police to target the use of resources, it does not mean that they are not necessarily a good measure of crime. Since the early 1980s police statistics have been supplemented by data from the British Crime Survey, which asks a representative sample of the household population about their experiences of crime over the year prior to interview. As with any victimisation survey, the BCS also has its limitations, but it is generally accepted as a more reliable measure of trends in the common types of crime against individuals or households. The need for two sources of crime statistics is undoubtedly one factor that contributes to distrust, as was acknowledged by interviewees inside and outside the Home Office. For statisticians and criminologists, the two types of data complement one another: the absence of either source would lead to huge gaps in our knowledge about crime. For the media, the public and many politicians, however, the two sources often seem to compete for attention. How easy it is for the impression of cherry-picking to take hold. This is a particular problem when the two sources of data show contradictory trends,

A drop in crime, while good news, is not as newsworthy as an increase. Within an overall reduction there is likely to be a mixed picture, with some crimes going up and others down. The existence of the two data sources, which can show contradictory trends, makes it even easier either to 'cherry pick' for something that has gone up, "Well the thing is they've got two figures that they measure crime by and one's the British Crime Survey and one's the, I think it's the actual figures that are recorded by the police. And they keep changing which one they're highlighting depending on which one's the best and so the police one is actually a much lower figure than the British Crime Survey, although the British Crime Survey's gone down a lot so they're highlighting that". (Participant in MORI focus group). Violent crime in itself is one of those that have gone up, there were over a million violent offences recorded in 2008-2009. "Violent crime has increased from 615,985 offences in 1998-9 to 1034,972, an increase of 68 percent. Gun crime (excluding air weapons) are down by 17 percent in 2008-9 but still 58 per cent higher than in 1998-9." ( Home Office, Crime in England and Wales 2008-9, 22 October 2009, Revised Table 2.04) . this goes to show how easy it is to manipulate the figures, figures could have gone down from the previous year but my still be higher than previous years, this is done to try and gain points by the government and the police.

Using the example of violent crime show the strengths and weaknesses of police recorded crime figures. According to the Home Office "Police statistics provide a good measure of trends in well reported crimes, are an important indicator of police workload, and can be used for local crime pattern analysis" (Home Office 2004). Violent crime has always been an issue of concern for both the government and the public. One issue that remains is how reliable these statistics are, are they creating an atmosphere of panic and tension within the general public Violent crime is an issue of considerable public concern. These may include the volume and violent crimes that include; sexual offences, gun and knife crime, domestic violence, race and other hate crime. In particular, it is expected for the partners to pay close attention to the levels of domestic violence that are ongoing, as this information about crime is unlikely to be recovered through the recorded crime figures. We expect partnerships to consider how best to uphold the emphasis on tackling domestic burglary, vehicle crime and robbery. Reducing harms caused by illegal drugs is a good way to reduce it, considering how they progress and following it up by aiding them to get out of the crime world. Treatment centers and availability to enter these places for those in the Criminal Justice System and they should also set challenges and targets for vulnerable young people.

Following the publication of the Government's 2004 spending review and the Home Office's new five year Strategic Plan, the Home Office will have seven new Public Service Agreement targets (PSAs) for the period March 2005 to 2007/08. It is through these targets that they will try and achieve the objectives that have been set out in the Home Office Strategic Plan. Partnership activities will influence and support delivery of all the Home Office PSAs, but their work will be especially influential in the delivery of: "PSA1 (to reduce crime by 15%, and more in high crime areas, by 2007/08). PSA2 (to reassure the public, reducing the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour, and building confidence in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) without compromising fairness). PSA3 (to bring 1.25 million offences to justice in 2007/08). PSA4 (reduce the harm caused by illegal drugs including substantially increasing the number of drug misusing offenders entering treatment through the CJS). PSA6 (increase voluntary and community engagement, especially amongst those at risk of social exclusion)".

Partnerships will be expected to set challenging targets locally in order to reduce crime, disorder and drug related incident in their communities. Government Offices will help and support partnerships to achieve the required outcomes. Partnerships are currently ranked on rates of recorded crime per head of population but only for vehicle crime, burglary and robbery. Using the new measure produces a different list of partnerships in the top 40. The recorded crime British Crime Survey is the provider of statistics that the police record that cover the crime types that are most similar to those obtained by the BCS. As part of the delivery of PSA1 at a regional and local level, the Home Office has clear expectations of the level of performance required from each region and each partnership within it. The Regional performance indicator is the level of reduction needed regionally to support delivery of the PSA at a national level. The Home Office will use this as a regional performance indicator to monitor the contribution, at a regional level, to the delivery of PSA1. The Home Office expects partnerships to set challenging targets to support delivery of all PSAs, as appropriate, especially PSAs 1, 2 and 4. The nature of PSA1 means that there are particular expectations of partnership performance and targets to support the 15% and more reduction.

The processing of media information on crime is based on a short-term, fast-paced and surface level research, which can limit the types of information circulating, and disregard crucial issues. Often news reports of crime read information on the offender, place of crime, and victim, with little devoted to the context of how offending or victimization occurs. In addition, the media's rapid analysis and assessment of crime trends and outcomes of the implementation of public policies at the local level can hinder effective and successful prevention. Crime prevention practitioners emphasize the importance of prevention strategies which are characterized by long-term action, and based on a solid diagnosis that takes into account the complexity of the causes of crime and their interactions. Therefore, news reporting of crime is not favourable to these approaches. The way the news media represents crime often includes 'newsworthy' stories that act on emotion more than on fact, and focus on negative images of crime in communities.

The fact that the public rely on the media to inform us allows them to manipulate the way we feel about crime. In addition Chiricos et al (2000) finds that local and

national news are related to fear of crime. The effect of local news on fear of crime is stronger for residents in high crime areas and those who experienced victimization.

In terms of audience effects, fear of victimization will depend on who is viewing the

crime stories. Research indicates that residents in high crime urban areas who watch a large

amount of television are more likely to be afraid of crime (Doob and MacDonald, 1979; Gerbner et al, 1980). Another important factor is whether audience members have direct victim experience or share characteristics that make them crime vulnerable. Research indicates that media sources will be more meaningful when direct experience is lacking (Gunter, 1987; Liska and Baccaglini, 1990; Skogan and Maxfield, 1981). For example, Liska and Baccaglini (1990) find that media influence was strongest for females, whites and the elderly, which are segments of the population least likely to be victimized. In another study, Chiricos et al (1997) find that the frequency of watching television news and listening to the news on the radio is significantly related to fear. Their research indicates that television news consumption is significantly related to fear only for white females between the ages of 30 and 44. This is similar to other findings that suggest that watching crime on television has a greater effect for women and whites, who have low victim risk compared to males and non whites (Gerbner et al., 1980).

New Labour once had a slogan: 'Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. That meant: it treated criminals more harshly, but also tried harder to tackle the causes of crime. "One of New Labour's most remarkable political achievements, during its first term of office, was to have forged a `Third Way' law and order position that has successfully challenged the idea that social democratic political parties are by definition `soft on crime'". This outlined key strategies reinforcing New Labour's core governmental project of `modernization through managerialization' in criminal justice. There was a focus on crime reduction and youth justice. It was pivotal to realizing New Labour's long-term objective of commanding the centre ground of law and order politics in the UK. We argue that an institutionalization and normalization of managerialism is taking place to resolve the contradictions, tensions and disconnections generated by the Conservatives' incomplete public sector reform project and to create the basis for achieving the long held ideal of a cost-effective, efficient, seamless criminal justice system. There are controversial opinions as to whether crime has fallen due to the criminal justice policy instigated by New Labour. The idea that crime has fallen has emerged from examples from statistical evidence. However, if you were to look into these sources, together with the idea that certain aspects of crime are not considered in certain surveys, provokes inevitable controversy. This analysis explores the arguments both supporting and contradicting this statement. According to these statistics "there was a rise in crime from 1981 to 1995 followed by a decrease. In 1995 the BCS figures indicated there were almost 20 million incidents, but this had decreased to just under 11 million by 2005" (Garside, 2006). New Labour came to power in 1997 and over the years has extensively increased expenditure in the criminal justice system in an effort to reduce crime by increasing the number of police officers and the number of prison places available.   "They introduced anti-social behaviour orders (ASBO's), founded the Serious Organised Crime Agency and increased spending in the probation service, crown courts and Crown Prosecution Service" (Eades, et al 2007, p.19).   Since 1995 the BCS has shown that wounding has decreased by 40% and common assault by 49% and also that Labour has met its targets to reduce vehicle crime and domestic burglaries (Home Office, 2006, p.65).

Combining data from ten sweeps of the British Crime Survey, it suggests that public confidence is based less on instrumental concerns about crime and more on expressive concerns about neighbourhood stability. Therefore, confidence may be driven not by fear of crime but by concerns about disorder, consistency and informal social control. Members of the public look to the police as representatives of community safety and guards as they address everyday problems and strengthen social order. To increase public confidence and decrease the fear of crime, the police need to interact more with the public and take an active part of the community and represent and defend community values, norms and morals. A very important factor when examining the impact of fear of crime, is determining whether or not the fear is proportionate to the actual incidence of crime. When the fear of crime is proportionate, people are aware of the risks associated with various personal violence offences. This level of fear or concern can encourage good personal safety habits and increased home and property security, therefore minimising the risks of becoming a victim themselves. When the fear of crime becomes disproportionate to the reality, it now becomes a negative effect on a person's lifestyle and quality of life. These effects can include: people avoiding situations and limit thier movements, sometimes to the extent that they become reluctant to leave their own home. not only do they limit where they may go but they may also refrain from doing activites that they enjoyed due to this disproportionate overwhelming fear. Police precense will make people feel more at ease and safe around their area. Educating the society about crime and crime prevention could be another way to tackle this. Getting the society involved in both crime prevention through social development and in community based justice programs such as Youth Justice Committees, supervision of youth doing Community Service work. Direct citizen involvement in justice leads to a better informed citizenry, who then are more understanding of what impacts crime and how to change it.