Are you a crime buff? Do you enjoy fictional crime stories like "Law & Order" or "CSI"? Or do you prefer television programs that offer a real-life glimpse into crime—such as "Forensic Files" or "American Justice"? According to a study published in The Sociological Quarterly, the type of crime programming that you enjoy can heavily influence the way you think about crime and how the criminal justice system works.
For those who watch fictional crime stories, violent crime is an anomaly, the bad guys usually get caught, and the wheels of justice grind fairly most of the time. However, the beliefs of people who watch real-life crime programming are quite different. These viewers are more likely to think that crime is rampant and they could very well become victims themselves. In addition, people who watch these shows have far less faith in the justice system and its ability to keep criminals off the street.
This, says University of Nebraska-Lincoln researcher Lisa Kort-Butler, is because of the storytelling techniques that are used in television crime documentaries. These shows, unlike fictional crime dramas, rely on interviews with crime victims and their families—as well as detailed information about criminals' history and ability to evade arrest. As a result, viewers feel like they, too, can be the victims of crime and the police have little power to protect them.
"This narrative structure is nothing new to storytelling about crime, but it may lead to a heightened fear among viewers because it seems like such a crime could happen to them or their loved ones," said Kort-Butler. "Because the criminal is often portrayed as one step ahead of the law, viewers may be less confident in the authorities' ability to stop the crime before it's too late."
(Source: What your TV habits may say about your fear of crime. Retrieved from newsroom.unl.edu.)