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Media myths and their effect on law enforcement performance

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Media over dramatization of crime is a huge issue which has plagued law enforcement communities around the globe for more than a decade, especially since the rise of the technological era. Reporters, newspapers, writers, and news agencies, including websites, around the world cause this by writing over sensationalized stories and focusing on the most violent crimes more often than anything else in their community.

As Hoffman states, ?It is not necessarily the volume of crime news that affects us but rather the way it is portrayed? (Hoffman, 1998, p. 64). When given selective information on crimes by law enforcement agencies, to make the story more ?readable? and draw the public into their columns, many writers fill in the blanks and mysteries with their own versions of what really happened. Be it stretching the truth or making a simple quote seem more than it is the sensationalism of the way crimes are depicted causes scandal all over and makes minor break ins seem like a thief ran off with the Mona Lisa. Barkan describes it as, ?A major problem is that the media overdramatize crime in at least two ways. First, they report many crime stories in order to capture viewer or reader attention?Second, the media overdramatize crime by giving disproportionate attention to violent crime?. (Barkan, 2009, p. 11).

However, adventurous writing on the part of reporters is not the only fault in the media's portrayal of law enforcement. To make their selections catchier to the reader many choose to cover a majority, if not exclusively, violent crime stories. Their constant portrayal and seeking out of violent offense after violent offense causes over dramatization of not only crimes in the area but also crime statistics when the public begins to believe that their community is plagued by horrendous amounts of violent crime.

[...] Sudbury, Mass.: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Hoffman, A. M., Schuh, J. H., & Fenske, R. H. (1998) Violence on campus: defining the problems, strategies for action (pp. 56-69). Gaithersburg, Md.: Aspen Publishers. Matteo, J. (n.d.). [...]


[...] When dealing with members of the media law enforcement officials must be cautious and at the same time open. When writing public relations speeches or even on a day to day crime scene encounter, members of these esteemed agencies should choose not only their words carefully but also the information they allow to pass to the public. Any and all information given to the media should be carefully thought about in the event that it could be twisted or used to harm the public opinion of law enforcement in such a way that would only cause more harm and fear than good. [...]

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