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Feeling Safe by Comparison: Crime in the Newspapers

Allen E. Liska and William Baccaglini
Social Problems
Vol. 37, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 360-374
DOI: 10.2307/800748
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800748
Page Count: 15
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Feeling Safe by Comparison: Crime in the Newspapers
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Abstract

Fear of crime has emerged as a significant social issue. Survey research suggests that it has significantly increased since the mid-1960s and that it has become a component of the stresses, strains, and health of contemporary urban life. Causal research, for the most part, treats fear as a characteristic of individuals and examines how it is affected by other individual characteristics, such as age, sex, class, and race. Our research treats fear as a characteristic of social units (cities) and examines how it is affected by the structural and cultural characteristics of those units, such as crime rates and the newspaper coverage of crime. The sample consists of the 26 cities used in the National Crime Survey (NCS). Data on the fear of crime are obtained from the NCS; data on structural characteristics are obtained from a variety of sources, including the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), NCS, and the U. S. census; and data on newspaper coverage are obtained from a content analysis of the newspapers of the 26 cities. The results show that the effect of newspaper coverage is complex, with some forms of coverage increasing fear and other forms of coverage decreasing fear, and that the effect of official crime rates is mediated through the newspaper coverage of crime.

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