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Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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    Perception of Crime Rates in the UK
    I've added this section to "Modern Mass Media: 1.3. Perception of Crime Rates in the UK" by Vexen Crabtree:

    "Crime stories have long been a staple of news reporting, but crime news doesn't reflect the real world" says Professor Justin Lewis, head of the School of Journalism at Cardiff University. He continues: "Crime is usually reported because it is dramatic or alarming, not because it is typical or likely to have an impact on our lives. So while increases in the crime figures are seen as dramatic, decreases are seen as dull. The first will be headlined, the second glossed over. [...] Many people have assumed in recent years that crime levels are going up when they have actually been going down". For example in the 1990s the annual total crime rate was over 15 millions crimes per year on average in the UK. This was according to the large-scale British Crime Survey which quizzes people about crime, rather than rely on police or government statistics. In the 2000s the average was closer to 10 million crimes per year. This significant drop has occurred despite an increasing population in the UK. "Despite these changes, 65 per cent of the population believe that crime levels are increasing in the country as a whole". Aside from this independent source, the UK government's Home Office has itself complained of the mistaken opinions of the masses, noting that in particular, readers of poor quality newspapers are the most likely to have skewed perceptions of crime:
    The Home Office says that [...] Crime in England and Wales actually peaked in 1995 and has now fallen by 44% in the last 10 years. 'Despite the number of crimes estimated by the British Crime Survey falling in recent years, comparatively high proportions of people still believe the crime rate to have risen. This is not true.' said Jon Simmons, head of Home Office research and statistics who put part of the problem down to media reporting. 'Readers of national tabloids were around twice as likely [39%] as those who read national broadsheets [19%] to think that the national crime rate has increase 'a lot' in the previous year', he said.
    Populist news outlets prefer to headline what sells rather than practice good journalism. And aside from crime rates, populist papers tend to report the negative side of pretty much everything.

    The next section on that page is about "Modern Mass Media: 1.4. The Pessimism Syndrome"

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