The fear of crime refers to the fear of being a victim of acrime as opposed to the likelihood of actually being a victim of said crime. Inrecent years many have debated the question of whether or not the fear of crimeis potentially as serious as crime itself.
A number of criminologists would mostlikely agree that a large number of the population are haunted by the idea thata stranger could attack them at any given moment. There seems to be no limitnor a boundary upon place or time of this crime: this could occur in the homeor on the street and the crime itself could be anything from robbery, assault,rape and so on. This essay will seek to analyse the catalyst behind this suddencrime fearing state of mind, and also the effects of one’s fear. This will assesswhether this ‘process’ of developing the fear is significantly affected by themedia.Many criminologists and sociologists have carried outstudies to determine whether or not there is a direct correlation between thefear of crime and the actual risk involved in a given situation. When this hasbeen tested many have founded little to no link between the two.
The idea thatthe media are to blame for this fear of crime rather than it being based on anyform of logic or natural human response to danger originates in many pieces ofwork written in the 1970s by Gerbner (1977). The argument put forward is thatthe type of crime that was being portrayed across all forms of media possessedno likeness to real crime and had been too affectively dramatised in order toinduce fear into the audience for entertainment purposes. Along with this, the ‘TVCrime Dramas’ were doing too good of a job at convincing the public to maketheir own minds up about certain crime statistics. For example, if a show wereto have elderly women being disproportionately represented as criminals then itbegins to be instilled in the minds of the public that we should fear them –based on a study by Howitt in 1988. He puts more weight on the significance ofthis idea by finding that those who watched more TV were found to be morelikely to be influenced than those who don’t watch as much. Gerbner went on tocall this the ‘cultivation differential’Gerbner’s introduction to the idea of a ‘Cultivation Theory’in the 1960s and 70s was at the forefront of any conversation of the topic andspoke of a long-term effect that was both gradual and indirect yet stillsignificant to the everchanging perception of crime.
To look at a different approachto this theory could mean looking at the ideas put forward by Gross (1977) – that’television is a cultural arm of the established industrial order and as suchserves primarily to maintain, stabilize and reinforce rather than to alter,threaten or weaken conventional beliefs and behaviours’ (Boyd- Barrett 1987:100).