Effects of Media on Perceived Risk, Fear of Gang Crime and Resulting Protective Behaviors

Jodi Lane, University of Florida
James W. Meeker, University of California, Irvine

ABSTRACT
Fear of gang crime is an important policy problem in part because it may result in protective behaviors, which not only constrain lifestyles but therefore also may lead to less social control and consequently more disorder, community decline, crime and fear. Previous research indicates that when people look to the media for information about crime, they may feel more (or less) at risk and therefore more (or less) fearful depending on the source they use. Some studies indicate that these media effects also differ by ethnic group. We use data from a 1997 random digit dial survey of 1200 residents in Orange County, California to look one step further--examining behavioral precautions taken as a result of gang-related crime fears. Specifically, we disaggregate by ethnic group to see if the results are different for whites and Latinos and use structural equation models to examine the direct and indirect impacts of demographics and media sources of information about crime on perceived risk, fear of crime, and resulting protective behaviors.

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Updated 05/20/2006