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Updated on March 30, 2023 7:32 am

How The TV Present ‘COPS’ Messed Up People’ Views Of Policing And Crime

By Ross Pomeroy for RealClearScience

People usually do not know what’s going on in America. That is notably true with regards to crime. Since 1990, charges of violent crime and property crime have steadily declined – the downtrends stalled solely by a couple of temporary intervals of small will increase, together with the one we’re experiencing at this time within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But even if america is now unquestionably safer from crime than it was thirty years in the past, when surveyed, People overwhelmingly imagine the other. Yearly since 1989, as a part of its polling on crime, Gallup has requested respondents a easy query: “Is there extra crime within the U.S. than there was a yr in the past, or much less?”

In every year aside from 2001, the People polled stated there was “extra” crime by a mean margin of near 50 factors!

A major cause for this large misperception is the media. Crime is commonly depicted on community tv reveals, print and visible information, and in actuality TV. So although most of us will solely not often expertise crime in our lives – if we ever do in any respect – we see and listen to about it on a regular basis. This locations crime squarely on the entrance of our minds.

And maybe no present has been extra liable for that placement than COPS. Since premiering on Fox in March 1989, there have been 33 seasons of the syndicated actuality present. Throughout its 1,109 episodes, digital camera crews tail together with cops as they carry out their duties: busting prostitutes, responding to home disputes, chasing housebreaking suspects, and apprehending unlawful drug customers.

Reruns of COPS have been on TV nearly continuously over the previous couple many years – you’d be hard-pressed to seek out an American who hasn’t seen no less than a couple of episodes of the present. This presents a double-problem, as a result of as COPS has made crime viscerally memorable, it additionally has misrepresented crime and policing typically. In response to documentarians who studied the present and its social results:

“There are about 4 instances extra violent crimes in COPS than in actuality. And thrice extra drug arrests. And about 10 instances extra arrests for intercourse work. The cops on the present are additionally, statistically talking, extraordinarily good at their jobs. Segments on the present finish in arrest 84.4% of the time.”

“In actuality, about 11% of all critical crimes lead to an arrest, and about 2% finish in a conviction,” Shima Baughman, a Professor of Prison Legislation on the College of Utah, wrote.

Two completely different analyses have additionally revealed that COPS depicts African-American and Hispanic males as much more liable for violent crime than they’re in reality, skewing the general public’s impression of racial minorities.

survey carried out in 1996 discovered that common viewers of COPS and different crime-focused actuality reveals have been “considerably extra fearful than rare viewers of being sexually assaulted, overwhelmed up,  knifed, shot, or killed.” Different research have repeatedly proven that viewers who watch massive quantities of crime on tv are typically extra afraid of crime and extra inclined towards regulation and order.

Crime is scary, so it is sensible to no less than be considerably cautious of it. However by and enormous, because of media representations and reveals like COPS, People grossly exaggerate the prevalence of crime, leading to pointless concern, irrational decisions, and poor coverage selections.

Syndicated with permission from Actual Clear Wire.

The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content material companions are their very own and don’t essentially mirror the views of The Political Insider.


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