There is a current situation in Australia where research evidence suggests that crime rates are falling; however,society seems to be overtly more worried by crime. In particular, violent crime has been identified as a concern for the public due to strong media interest. As the media are "the primary indirect source of information from which most people learn about crime" (Hayes & Prenzler, 2012, p. 4), it is obvious that the media are quite influential in the way society views crime. In this essay, the notion that the media are at fault for people's fear of crime will be explored, along with other elements such as gender, age, income and lenient sentencing. It will ultimately be concluded that the media play a substantial role in the public's perception and fear of crime in Australia.
Research has established that the types and forms of media accessed can affect an individual's perception of crime and justice (Roberts & Indermaur, 2009). Results from the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (Indermaur & Roberts, 2005) found that 44% of respondents relied upon the internet for their media news. This group had the most accurate perception of crime, however people who rely on commercial television (20%), talkback radio (21%) and friends and family (20%) had the least accurate understanding of crime. Furthermore, the results from the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes state that eight out of ten respondent's still rate television, newspapers and radio as a fairly or very important source in informing the public of crime. Television is inclined to strengthen any public misperception about crime due to its large popularity (Indermaur & Roberts, 2005). Also, more people are afraid of crime than are actual victims of crime. As rumours spread fear to people who are not the victims, they then become fearful of that crime happening to them (Clark, 2003). Based on results from the 2007 survey, it would appear that those with the greatest misperceptions of crime, have the view that television and family have the most effective roles in driving perceptions of crime (Davis & Dossetor, 2010).