levels of fear of crime than their counterparts who did not
(Dowler, 2003). An individual’s personal experiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence
whether or not media has an impact on them. Those individuals, whom experience
crimes first hand are less likely to then become fearful of them through
watching them on television, whereas an individual who has no prior experience
being involved in crime, would become more fearful after watching particular
news or television dramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980)
found that “the relationship between the fear of crime and the amount of
television watched was greatest for females and white people”. Further research
has also found out that “female, whites and elderly people were also more
likely to have a fear of crime; despite their lower likelihoods in finding
themselves victims of it” (Dowler, 2003).

Only a minor subsection of
the population have first-hand experience of violent crime, in reference to
this, the majority of people whom have not had any direct contact with violent
crime, believe the world is worse than it is; the result of this is major sections
of the population within societies becoming more afraid of getting victimized
than need be (McQuivey 1997). The fear victimization
paradox is founded on one’s ability/inability to master involvement in a
violent crime. Fear Victimization paradox exists independently of the
likelihood of involvement in crime, it can happen despite the likelihood an
individual could be very likely become involved in a violent crime; “a truck
driver in the middle of the night at a rest area, its fear of crime might not
be high because it thinks that it has control over such a situation” (Sandman
1993; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen (2003) posits that “men usually think
they can handle it. Women feel more vulnerable”, in reality however, men are
more likely to become a victim of a crime (Bureau of Statistic and Research
1996). Research has indicated that facts and figures have no influence
on the people’s perception of crime, furthermore, that the media is just one of
many variable factors to be taken into account when analysing prevalent fear of
crime, whether on an individual or societal basis. “A person’s personality or
socialization are variables which have to be taken into account” (McQuivey,
1997). Older people have a great fear of
becoming a victim of crime because they believe they are more vulnerable than
younger members in society (Carcach et. al., 2001). Their physical fitness and
strength has declined leaving them in a weakened state, and therefore possibly
targeting them as easy victims as they are less likely to be able to defend
themselves (Carcach et. al., 2001). Gerbner et al (1980) confirmed his previous
research in those individuals who watch more television than average showed a
higher rate of fear towards their environment, than those who watch less. More
recently Dowler (2003) found that even when taking into account factors such as
race, age, gender, income, education and marital status, those individuals whom
watch more crime shows tend to exhibit a significantly higher rate of being
fearful of crime (Dowler, 2003). Dowler went on to discover that hours of
watching television news programs did not have a significant relationship with
higher levels of fear of crime.

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By the 1970s the crime or police drama
had replaced the western for the most prevalent prime-time television fare
(Doyle, 2006). The boundary between crime entertainment and crime information
has been blurred progressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, &
Muzzatti, 2006). Roughly half of the newspapers and television items people
come into contact with are concerned with crime, justice or deviance (Doyle,
2006). With the bombardment of criminal images surrounding people every day,
the mass media often influences how people look at crime. The picture presented
in the media of crime differs from the picture by official and other statistics
(Doyle, 2006). Crime in the media is edited, stylized and formatted in a
way that is camouflaged as realistic and informative (Surrette, 2006). People
associate the information they see on the television to real life. If the
television shows elevated crime rates, real life must also. The line between
media crime and real life crime has become blurred.

Flately (2010) also points out that there has
been a steady fall in crime since 1995, but people still tend to believe that
it is increasing. Public belief in rising crime levels, as aforementioned, can
be directly correlated to increasing levels of the media’s representation of
crime. Fear of crime is something which can be used as a tool by government in
that a certain level of fear of crime is desirable to inspire problem solving
action and inspire the fearful to take precautions; “exaggerated public perceptions of crime risks
can also lead to serious distortions in government spending priorities and
policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Functional fear is a tool used by the masses for
the purposes of self-preservation, although this is often taken out of personal
context and, one would argue, has led to people’s preconceived views in
reference to the pertinence of crime in their environment, giving