Perceptions and Biases to Crime and Criminals
by Tara Forten
If you were reading a crime fiction novel and if the author had not described the criminal in too much detail, what image would form in your mind as you read the book? You may think you’re not biased at all, but the truth is, most of us think of stereotypes of criminals that have been formed over the years, thanks to television and the movies – roughnecks who are unkempt and look and smell dirty, thugs with massive muscles and visible tattoos, African Americans with dreadlocks or a shaven head, and so on. This is exactly the same reason as to why we also shy away from sinister looking strangers on the street and warn our children to beware of them.
Are we actually wrong to let biases and stereotypes dictate the way we perceive the criminal intent of people, or is this just a survival instinct telling us to be careful and protect ourselves? If so, then we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to the criminal kinds that look and act normal – they are just your average people next door and you tend to trust them “instinctively” because your bias and perception of the criminal stereotype tells you that they are safe.
A recent survey found that we change our perception of crime based on the television shows we watch – with the proliferation of crime shows on TV, it’s hard to find people who’ve not seen one or the other at some point of time. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have found that if you prefer to watch non-fictional crime shows, you’re more likely to be more fearful of becoming a victim of crime and show less confidence in the criminal justice system. If crime fiction is your cup of tea, it really doesn’t affect your perception of falling victim to a crime or your confidence in the justice system. And if you watch the local news crime coverage, you’re more likely to believe that the local crime rate is shooting up by the day.
The reality today is that crime has reached proportions that are hard to even imagine, and no matter how safe our location and how cocooned an environment we live in, it’s best to err on the side of caution and take every precaution to safeguard your home and your family. Teach your children a few basic safety rules – never give out their address, phone number, social security number, credit card number, or any other personal information to anyone; don’t walk the streets alone, especially when it’s dark; inform an adult of your whereabouts at all times; seek out a law enforcement officer in case you think you’re being followed or harassed – and ensure that your home is well protected with alarms and deadbolts. Also, don’t trust strangers too fast and restrict access to your home for people you hardly know.
It pays to be smart and avoid becoming a victim of crime, so start protecting yourself today by taking the simple yet effective measures that have proven to work time and again.
This guest post was contributed by Tara Forten, who writes on the topic of forensic science technician online . Tara can be reached at her email id: tara.forte12_AT_gmail_dot_com