Crime rates are declining, but 52 percent of 1,569 adults surveyed by Portland State University believe crime is on the rise, The Oregonian reports.
The disparity between perception and reality, said criminologist Brian Renauer, can affect everything from public policy to law enforcement’s ability to keep the public safe. He directs the university’s Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, which which conducted the telephone survey last year. Respondents who said they thought crime had climbed were more inclined to define themselves as conservative. They typically did not have bachelor’s degrees, reported their family income at less than $50,000 and said they were dissatisfied with the criminal justice system.
Of that group, 45 percent ranked punishment and enforcement as top crime-control measures. Sociologists long have studied fear as an indirect effect of crime, and conclude it has contributed to everything from political campaigns with a law-and-order bent to the rapid growth of gated communities and the security industry. Some studies show a strong correlation between fear of crime and media consumption — from the abundance of crime reports in newspapers and on TV to the plethora of forensics and cop dramas on the tube night and day. A 2009 Purdue University survey found that those who watched lots of crime shows estimated real-world deaths due to murder at 2 1/2 times more than non-viewers.