Does the Number of News Reports About Murder and Brutality Effect the Crime Rate?
Murder and brutality in news reports might provoke physically labile people into committing more crimes. This concern is often expressed by ordinary people as they call for less violence on TV. However, the possible harm from crime reports should be weighed against their benefits.
There is a number of research studies demonstrating that correct presentations of crime in news reports can reduce crime rates by building awareness. As people with criminal inclinations see offenders being punished, their wishes to violate the law might decrease. They can compare the probable benefits of a crime with the probability and severity of punishments, and conclude that the risk is not worth it. However, this effect is only possible for the kinds of crimes that are planned beforehand. The number of spontaneous murders cannot be reduced this way.
Another beneficial effect of crime news reports is raising public awareness about how to identify a potential criminal and what to do in a dangerous situation. If people report more cases of violent behavior to police at the stage where a crime can still be prevented, it may contribute to a decrease in criminal activities. For example, an ordinary citizen may hear that her drunken neighbors are having a violent quarrel and one of them is threatening another. If she calls the police right away, they can arrive in time to prevent a murder. Crime prevention is even more important for social stability than the punishment of offenders. To avoid the damage to people’s lives and health, it is important to build a system of early notifications.
As for brutality in news reports being able to provoke people into violent behavior, there is no strong research evidence in support of this view. The primary causes of crime include poverty, social inequality, ineffective justice system, and the use of illegal drugs or alcohol. Graphic violence on TV is not one of them. Its effects, if any, seem to be insignificant in comparison to the factors listed above.
Overall, news reports can help reduce crime rates if they provide not only details of the murders, but also information on how they could have been prevented and how the offenders will be punished. Correct presentation of crime in news can make potential criminals give up on their plans and increase the number of cases reported to the police. However, further research is needed to determine whether graphic violence in reports can contribute to the greater brutality of crimes.