Perception of Crime

Perception of Crime in Europe

Perception of Crime in the German Population – Findings From Surveys in the Years 2004 to 2010

Dirk Baier, from the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, made a contribution to the 2012 Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology, in the category “Crime and Society,” under the title “Perception of Crime in the German Population – Findings From Surveys in the Years 2004 to 2010”. Here is the abstract: Concerning the topic of crime the majority of the German population holds a wrong perception: First people think that there are much more crimes than really recorded in crime statistics. Second most people assume that the number of crimes is increasing what is true only for certain delicts. The Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony analyses these perceptions of crime since 2004 using representative surveys. Comparing results of the 2004, 2006 and 2010 surveys we observe a trend towards more realistic perceptions. This trend could be explained by lower victimisation rates, by a decline of fear of crime as well as by a changing media consumption (more seldom use of tabloid and private television news). Beside these positive trends a rather stable trend regarding the punitivity of the people is identified: In 2010 nearly as much interviewees as 2004 claimed severe sentences for perpetrators of criminal acts. This finding is contradictory to the before mentioned trends because perceptions and punitivity correlate positively: People who think that crime is increasing more often claim severe sentences and vice versa. A possible explanation for the stability of punitivity may be found in media coverage. Cases of childrens victimisation as well as cases of sexual violence are widely discussed in the German media. Focussing the victims respectively their relatives and their sorrows may demonise the perpetrators and foster the wish for severe sentences.

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Further Reading

  • “Perception of Crime in the German Population – Findings From Surveys in the Years 2004 to 2010”, by Dirk Baier (Proceedings)

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