Television newscasts concentrate excessively on violent crime, creating unwarranted fear among viewers, according to a criminologist and host of a syndicated radio show.
Dr. Georgette Bennett, writing in the Jan. 5 issue of TV Guide, said television newscasts devote 10-20% of their time to crime, most of it violent.
The emphisis has led viewers to believe a crime wave is sweeping the nation, although statistics compiled by the National Crime Survey show the crime rate has dropped in the last two years, she said.
Concentration on the sensational also has given viewers the impression that most crimes are violent, but statistics show only 10% of all crimes are violent, Bennett said.
As an example of misplaced fear, Bennett cited the recent rash of stories on child abuse in day-care centers and state legislatures' resulting efforts to regulate the industry.
"The day-care-center media blitz would lead you to believe that schools and child-care facilities are where kids are in greatest danger of sexual abuse," she Wrote.
"Not so. According to estimates by the American Humane Assn. and the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, a high proportion os children are molested at the hands of their own families."
She said television coverage also unfairly robs classes of society of their sense of safety.
"Ironically, it's those least at risk who fear crime most," she wrote. "The little old lady next door is not the one most likely to be beaten or mugged. It's the young black....on the other side of town."
"TV's crime coverage is a public disservice," she said.