Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oregon: Crime Down, Fear Up

In Oregon, the rate of violent crime and property crime are lower than they've been since the 1960s and they continue to fall statewide and nationally. That’s right, crime rates have fallen consistently for over a decade, literally to their lowest level in half a century.

However, when Portland State University (PSU) surveyed 1,569 Oregon adults, 52 percent said they believe crime is on the rise, according to the Oregonian.

In the PSU survey, only 10 percent of respondents said they believed the crime rate had dropped during the preceding year, while 38 percent said they thought the rate had stayed the same. Researchers figured the margin of error at about 2.47 percentage points.

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, reported the Oregonian. Another words, Republicans who have made huge political strides by pushing for harsher enforcement of criminal statutes believe crime is on the rise. In fact, of the group that thinks crime is rising, 45 percent ranked punishment and enforcement as top crime-control measures.

The gaping disparity between perception and reality, Brian Renauer told the Oregonian, can affect everything from public policy to law enforcement's ability to keep the public safe -- even simple livability and peace of mind. Renauer, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, directs PSU's Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute, which conducted the telephone survey from June 15 to July 27 last year.

According to the Oregonian, 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.

To read more: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/02/oregonians_believe_crime_is_on.html

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