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June 19, 2018

"Does Watching TV Sports Lower Crime Rates?"

I love the notion that I am doing my part for public safety by sitting on my arse watching sports on the telly.  Consequently, I was excited to see this piece at The Crime Report which has as its headline the title of this post.  Of course, the research does not suggest my TV viewership prevents others from committing crimes, but the research is still interesting all the sane.  Here is an  excerpts (and with a link to the underlying research):

If Americans spent more time watching televised sports, there might be a decrease in crime, according to a study by the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.  In “Entertainment as Crime Prevention: Evidence from Chicago Sports Games,” published in the Journal of Sports Economics last month, researchers Ryan Copus and Hannah Laqueur observed consistent decreases in crime during the times that games aired in Chicago.

Copus and Laqueur found that overall crime during the Bears “Monday Night Football” is roughly 15 percent lower than the same time on Monday nights when the Bears are not playing, and noted similar but smaller effects for Chicago’s basketball and baseball teams.  More popular games showed a stronger effect, with the Super Bowl producing the most dramatic reduction: a decrease of approximately 25 percent during game coverage, amounting to roughly 60 fewer crimes.

While violence in the media has provoked concerns about increasing aggressive behavior among viewers, little exploration has been made of television’s power to divert people from criminal activity.  The study’s results bear out the “incapacitation hypothesis”: If people are entertained, they are not committing crimes.  The authors believe that the diversionary power of movies, television, and video games may compensate for their potential short-term aggression-inducing effects....

The study’s results do not exclude the possibility that those who forgo criminal activity while watching a game will commit crime in the days or weeks before or after the game takes place instead.  Still, Copus and Laqueur’s analysis could be significant to the study of crime control given what it suggests about criminal behavior — namely, that “some share of crime may be best understood not as a predetermined and calculated activity but rather as itself recreation.” 

“There is not a set ‘demand’ for criminal activity,” the study’s authors write. “Rather, some amount of crime is opportunistic and situational — if prevented today, it does not inevitably occur tomorrow.”

June 19, 2018 at 04:23 PM | Permalink


“There is not a set ‘demand’ for criminal activity,” the study’s authors write. “Rather, some amount of crime is opportunistic and situational — if prevented today, it does not inevitably occur tomorrow.”

Right. No one disagrees with that. Where people do disagree is whether that short-term benefit of distraction is outweighed by the long-term social conditioning effects of repeated exposure to violence (see Bandura and his bobo dolls.) There is furious dispute in the literature on that point.

What would really be great is if the author's could show that exposure to I love Lucy reruns had the same distracting effect. But I suspect they can't, so the debate will go on.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 19, 2018 9:06:12 PM

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