Social Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Are there cities in the US where violent crime is sometimes not considered to be newsworthy?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23288 points ) January 4th, 2012

While talking to a friend (who lives in a big city), I mentioned that it seems that there have been more murders than usual on the local news. He commented that it probably seems more shocking or significant here, because they report all of these crimes on our news stations.
And they do. He said that more likely than not, many rapes and murders do not make the news in larger cities, since there would be so many.

However, we did some research, and statistically, your odds of becoming a victim of violent crime are significantly higher living here than they are in all big cities in the US. In 2005 we were rated as the 4th most dangerous city in the country, which sparked an attempt to do something about the serious crime problem. We have been improving ever since, and from the looks of it we had 30 murders in 2011. Statistically it is a very high number for a small city, but compared to larger cities it would seem quite low. Of course, all 30 made the news.

So, in large cities with high violent crime rates… do these crimes always make the news? Even without being a story, is there a mention of these crimes every time it happens, or are they often overlooked due to frequency?

We can’t seem to find a way to figure this out, so I thought I would poll Fluther and see what you all think.

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31 Answers

filmfann's avatar

I just looked at my hometowns crime rates (Oakland), and they are terrible. I certainly have heard the murder reports on the news, but not the large number of burglaries and rapes, but I guess that is to be expected.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Of course your crime rates are high and they get reported a lot. What else is there to do in your state?

elbanditoroso's avatar

It’s a function of frequency. In Atlanta (where I live) we have a couple of murders a day. Mostly in the city (proper), mostly in the poorer neighborhoods, and frequently, but not always, among gang members and/or drug dealers. Probably 70% black on black, 25% hispanic, and 5% asian involvement. It’s a frequent occurrence and barely rates a half paragraph in the paper.

When you get into the Atlanta suburbs and there is a shooting (or another murder type) – particularly with white people doing the dying (or the killing) it makes real news. Like last year when the russian Jewish guy killed the husband of a woman he was having an affair with at work while the dad was dropping the kids at day-care. What was rich-white on rich-white, and that made the papers.

So the real bottom line is – is the violent crime different./unusual? That’s what gives it newspaper space.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I know you’re making a joke, but sincerely, with the staggering rates of unemployment, homelessness and hunger in this area, the crime is not surprising. I know your joke was meant to poke fun at us being in the middle of nowhere with nothing exciting going on, but “what else is there to do?” seems like a good way to sum it up, just in a different sense. These crimes are often fueled by desperation.

@elbanditoroso Atlanta is an excellent example, I’m glad that you shared. We agreed that it is probably likely that more unusual violent crimes would warrant more air time… but I find it impossible to believe that any type of murder would go without even so much as a mention. Even if it boiled down to “there were 6 fatal shootings in the city, today.” Or, however that might work out. But you think that they all receive mention, just little elaboration unless they are unique? Basically?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Nice way of taking my bad joke and making it into a wonderful civic lesson. I bow to your wisdom. You’re 100 percent right.

TexasDude's avatar

Detroit?
Baltimore?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard but do you think that crimes like this get no mention at all? Not even summed up in numbers?

That seems unreal, to me. I’m not saying it is impossible, it would just shock me if it is true.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Now you’ve raised a question in my mind. Violent crime in NY makes the headlines, or at least the story appears some where in the news every time. A pharmacy shooting on Long Island, a guy in Endicott found dead, the Rainier shooting, it always is big news. Why is that?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf – my assessment is that they all are mentioned, but the ‘routine’ murders in the ‘hood get a sentence or two, and the juicy ones a couple of paragraphs.

Just before Christmas, one rap singer shot another downtown. Typical black-on-black, there was some drug influence and god knows what else. The only reason that made a paragraph on page one is that both the killer and the victim had cut records recently. Otherwise – one sentence.

Go to link:www.ajc.com and read through a couple of days of the Atlanta newspaper. You’ll see what I mean.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe well, that’s what I wonder. If it is less significant than it would be in a small city, like here.
For our size, even with dramatic improvements, our murder rate is still 8 times higher than the national average. Even though that is significant, and makes this an unsafe place to live… 30 murders is a small number compared to hundreds of murders in a year in a big city. It’s easy to imagine all of them making the news. Shocking stories (for example, about a month ago a man held a family hostage and shot his wife in the chest with a crossbow) make stories. These are significant and make the front page of the paper, etc. Gang related crime, street crime, these are more likely to get a snippet on the side, but they are definitely discussed. It is considered to be “news.”
But, I can’t imagine 300 of those snippets a year… and at the same time, I can’t imagine no mention of it at all. It’s all kind of strange to think about, eh?
@elbanditoroso that’s a good idea, I wonder why I didn’t think to just start looking up newspapers and local news stations for big cities. Smart. :)

TexasDude's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf, all I know is that I’ve heard both of them alternate between first place for most dangerous or crime-ridden cities in the US. (I don’t recall what the actual descriptor is).
I can’t speak from personal experience or expertise, but I do have a few friends who have lived in and close to Detroit and they consistently describe it as though it were a third world, post apocalyptic, Road Warrior-esque shithole where the pervasiveness of crime causes people to barely bat an eyelashes. I’m sure there is actual data on this, but I feel as though said data has crossed the line where individual tragedies become mass statistics, if that makes sense.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@elbanditoroso well, right off the bat your top headlines for the day are about a shooting and a robbery. That is exactly what I would expect to see if I picked up my own local paper. In fact, our top headline for the day is about two teens who were arrested for fatally shooting a 58 year old man, followed by an accidental shooting, and then on to stuff about the drilling/earthquakes which are big news here right now.
So, it seems similar. Murder is still “news” in big cities, from the looks of it. I still need to read more to get a feel for how the quantity is dealt with. I just feel like it would be a terribly sad world if a person being gunned down in the streets is no longer considered something that the media should be reporting. Not that I WANT to hear these stories, but how desensitized would we have to be for this to no longer be news?

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard yeah, I can relate to that. I think that people who do not live here think we exaggerate or play up what it is really like, but it really is a dead city. It’s a wasteland of abandoned factories, vacant houses for miles and miles, stripped of their siding and guts, crime, poverty.. it’s sad. I think, being a small city, people don’t believe how bad it is until they see it with their own eyes. I know we have not made the “dangerous” list since 2005, but so many people abandoned the area that we no longer have enough population to qualify to be polled, at all. So it is difficult to gauge exactly where we are progress-wise. The whole thing is sad. I feel for other cities, big or small, that have a similar story.
It’s a “joke” in this area that after the sun goes down… you do not stop at stop signs. You pause at red lights, but never stop. Your car doors should be locked at all times. And, we do joke about this sort of thing.. but in reality, there is nothing funny about it.

marinelife's avatar

Our city is lower in murder:

“Homicides in the District of Columbia are at their lowest level in nearly 50 years, though other crimes like theft and theft from auto remain disturbingly high, Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Friday.

The 108 slayings recorded so far in 2011 are the lowest since 1963 — the last year there were fewer than 100 killings in DC — and an 18 percent drop from the 132 homicides of 2010. By comparison, there were 479 homicides in 1991.”

“Still, overall crime was up 2 percent over last year, and theft and theft from auto were up 13 and 12 percent, respectively.”

Washington Post

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@marinelife okay, that’s a great example. Do you think that, just from your experience watching and reading your local news, they reported all 479 of the 1991 homicides? Or, in contrast, the 108 murders – do you think they discussed murder every 3 days or so in the local news? Or do they lump it all together?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf – yep, today’s headlines reported a shooting and robbery.

But – what you don’t know (and won’t for another day) is what OTHER stuff happened that didn’t make the front page?

Some stuff NEVER gets in the paper.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@elbanditoroso that is very sad, to me. What a sad world we live in.

marinelife's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Each murder is covered on the TV news throughout the year.

JLeslie's avatar

Here in Memphis they are reported every day! I don’t watch the local news with any regularity, because there is always a shooting being reported. Memphis is always in the top three for violent crime. I consider Memphis and surrounding areas a medium size city, we are usually in the top 20 ranked by population, usually somewhere around 17–20.

When I lived in Boca Raton, FL I think a lot of crimes were kept under wraps. An employee of mine’s daughter was raped, I don’t think it was ever in the news? An employee of ours was held at knife point and mugged outside the store, I don’t think it ever made the news? When there was a rash of muggings for expensive watches and jewery at the malls, that eventually made the news. But, the parts of southeast FL and here in Memphis that have more crime in general you hear more about the crimes. I think part of it is statistics, it is simply happening more, amd part of it is crime is so commonplace the media is always looking for the crime report maybe?

Sometimes I am shocked by what doesn’t get picked up by the national media. A couple years ago we had two school shootings and a mom get on a school bus with a gun. WTF?! I don’t think anyone knew about it outside of the Memphis area. Every year guns are confiscated in schools here, I find it shocking. We just had a news report where they interviewed a teenager who said he doesn’t want to own and carry a gun like his friends. It is ridiculous here, IMHO.

Possibly some of it has to do with how much local journalists want to help protect the image of a city? Government and business have a vested interest in not reporting crime in the media, I wonder if they have any influence?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie wow! That really is shocking.
I wonder if you are on to something, with certain cities being more likely to want to protect the image, rather than focus on the negative stories. That doesn’t sound far fetched to me, I could see it happening.

JLeslie's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf I think even if you live in a city that seems to report a lot of crime, there are still many many more crimes, especially non-violent ones not being reported that you, not just you personally, I mean everyone, that we don’t even realize. If you look up crime stats for your city and nearby cities you would probably be shocked.

I have a friend, more of an acquaintance, who sent her son off to college in Atlanta, and she talked about how he is too trusting, left his door unlocked in the dorm saying, “I know everyone here, they all seem like good guys,” that was his third day living in the dorm. When I said to her how can that be growing up here, near Memphis, where there is so much crime? She said, “oh, but out where we live it’s safe.” No. Out where she lives there is still robberies and crime, it is just reported less, and people want to believe where they live is safe, and they think if they have never had anything bad happen to them personally the risk is near zero. She would dismiss crime in her town as an aberration most likely, while a report of crime in Memphis would be more proof it is dangerous. It’s the psychology of it I think. It’s like when you are considering buying a Ford Focus, all of a sudden you see them everywhere on the road. So, I think it is a combination of crimes not being reported in some places, and the audience not really taking as seriously the reports as proof there is crime in the area.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie that makes a lot of sense.

SuperMouse's avatar

I came from Los Angeles where in certain neighborhoods major crimes such as murder are everyday occurrences they rarely made the news.Now I live in a much smaller city that has fairly high crime rates. It is also one of the most segregated cities in the country. But here, even though there are areas where these crimes are common, it seems as though every single one of them gets news coverage. It is very odd indeed.

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse Do you think it is because of the race relations in the city? Memphis is fairly segregated also, and all the gun violence and murders seem to be reported.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@SuperMouse oh, interesting.. because the person that I was talking about this with is from LA.

Yay, Fluther has granted me the perspective I was hoping for… yet again. Never fails me. :)

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes. It’s called Los Angeles. If the media reported every violent crime there’d be no time for weather or the feel good story at the end.

I grew up in a ghetto, barrio really. Crime doesn’t even register for me, unless it’s really heinous.

CWOTUS's avatar

When I lived with my family in Michigan years ago, we lived just south of St. Joseph, on Lake Michigan. The towns of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, MI, are separated by the St. Joseph River, with BH to the north of SJ. For many years Benton Harbor has been predominantly black and poor (around 90% or more now) and St. Joseph has been almost that white, with mostly middle and upper class income and wealth. Benton Harbor has also had a lot more crime, as measured by FBI statistics. (I’m not assigning race as a cause of any of that, but the facts are the facts.)

Based on those facts, a lot of people in St. Joseph have routinely assumed that the crime is all “over there” across the river. Crime is, after all, more common on the north side of the river – but not non-existent in SJ. (@JLeslie made an excellent observation above.)

It twisted a lot of people’s minds one time when white kids in St. Joseph chased a black kid from Benton Harbor (who, as far as anyone knows, had only been walking in St. Joseph one evening) into the river. The victim couldn’t swim – and wasn’t rescued by his pursuers – so he drowned. Whether this was entirely racially motivated or not (it could have been a school rivalry thing, too, the way teens can be, and it’s also possible that the victim was not entirely innocent in his walkabout, either – this is now unknown), the fact was that white kids had caused a young black man to die, and this couldn’t be spun into “over there” crime.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@CWOTUS wow, how sad. :(

SuperMouse's avatar

@JLeslie I really do think that it is because of the race relations and ongoing segregation in our city. It is actually the dirty little secret of this city that it is so segregated and there is so much violence in certain areas with predominately minority populations.

YARNLADY's avatar

Detroit

JLeslie's avatar

@SuperMouse It isn’t a secret here, it seems to be very out in the open. I think it definitely might play a part in the reporting. Interestingly, the TV stations here have a lot of black anchors though, so you would think the journalism might be more balanced?

6rant6's avatar

According to this list of the per capita murders by city we’d do well to stay out of Florida and Georgia.

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