Fear of crime

The media and statistical sources combine to construct crime in many different ways, as can be seen in the contradictory reports from The Independent and The Sun Newspaper's. The headline from The Sun 'Drunk and disorderly: booze fuels 12% surge in brawling crimes' (The Sun,22nd July 2004) came out on the same day that The Independent newspaper headlined with 'Crime: the truth (The Independent, 22nd July 2004). The two articles report on the rise and fall of crime rates. The Sun states that there has been a 12% surge in violent crime fueled by booze and binge drinking based on police reporting.

The Independent newspaper reports that there has been a 39% fall in crime rates over the past nine years based on figures from the British Crime Survey. It has been said that that the public are misinformed of real crime statistics, as they are manipulated and socially constructed through the eyes of the media. The trends of crime may not be as accurate as we would think on the basis of the'official' crime figures. When deconstructing crime's ideologies and results , it is essential to remain objective and to assess the reliability of the statistic and where it has come from.

The question of how much crime really exists and how many victims there really are ,is still largely unanswered. This essay will attempt to look at how crime is measured, and where 'official' statistics are constructed from. The validity and reliability of this data will be discussed. It will also examine how the public can be misinformed of the real figures of crime throughout the eyes of the media and how this has elevated the public's 'fear' of crime. The term 'moral panic' will also be addressed.

How crime is recorded is a good place to start , crime statistics were first published in France in 1842(Quetelet, 1842). England and Wales then followed suit in 1876 and the U.S even later in 1930. the data was collected by the respective home office or FBI. Crimes were recorded by the authority's and from this basis the government and public could see how much crime was going on. This was sufficient evidence until it became clear that many crimes that had been committed, were infact not being reported. It therefore became necessary to do nationwide surveys on random samples and to question them about crimes that had occurred to them.

This led to the development on The British Crime Survey in 1982 . It revealed that at that time only 50% of crime was reported to the police and that 'official' statistics may be just scratching the surface on the real depths of the levels of crime. The validity of the'official' statistics was now in question and it became essential to use both methods of data when analyzing the levels of crime. Quinney and Wildeman(1977) believed there were three different interpretations of the crime statistics. The orthodox approach, an interactionist approach and the structural conflict approach. These argue that the way in which the data is gained, and it's source, is reflective of how it should be measured.

Maguire (1997) through his research found that 80% of all recorded crime is reported by public. The survey's, such as the BCS, state that only 50% of crime is actually reported. Therefore a huge gap can be seen in the lack of completed statistics and what they really know. The actual figures are unattainable from a survey or the home office. Hidden crime is a big issue and always prevalent within each society throughout the world.

It has been stated that an increase in crime levels could be because people feel more comfortable to report a crime and therefore it is not that there are higher crime levels than in previous years but that the level of public reporting has increased. The publics misrepresentation of crime can be compared historically within changes in legislation, such as definition of a crimes and how they change, minor and major crimes and how that had changed and government acts.

The relationship between the media and crime is a very powerful and embedded one. It is a medium to which the public can be reached and manipulated. Crime, whether it is news or entertainment, monopolizes much of the television, newspapers, radio and other forms of media. It can been said that the media caters for the public's need and therefore whatever is seen or read is there because that is what the public want. The public's fear of crime has been said to be greater than crime itself. How the media portrays criminals and criminal acts is how the public will probably view it to.

Williams and Dickinson(1997) stated that people who read newspapers have a higher fear of crime. This is confirmed by Box(1997) who elaborates on media stereotypes and how criminals are perceived through the media. He also believes in a need to examine the unreported crimes and the people behind them and their threat to society. His philosophy brings us back to the theory that laws are put in place to protect the upper classes, wealthy, powerful and privileged people with in society. To protect and to allow them to become perpetrators of the law, that go unreported or recognized.