Fear
is an emotion, our emotions are based upon our own and others actions. Fear of
crime gives rise to the risk-fear paradox which is prevalent across all
societies, independent of actual pertinent levels of crime and security.  “Fear of crime can be considered contagious,
because social interaction is the mechanism though which fear is shared and
chronically worried populations are created. Even those that have never been a
victim of crime can be seriously worried about it” (Curiel, 2017). The media
does engender fear of crime; the media’s socially constructed distorted view of
crime does result in higher levels of fear of crime within populations, despite
the fact that these media representations very rarely reflect or represent the
outside world.   An important comparison which should be drawn
in order to answer the question posed in the title is one between research
completed to study the impact/effects which playing violent video games has on
individuals. There is a distinct relationship shared between playing video
games and watching violence on television, this is because both involve
individuals watching depictions of otherwise unrealistic violence taking place
in front of them.  Social media is
another sphere through which through media engenders fear of crime, as fear of
crime is dependent on a number of varying social factors ranging from as race,
age, gender, income, education; in order to understand whether fear of crime is
engendered by the media or whether it is an inevitable consequence of living in
late modern society, it is very important to take into account these other
factors; in order to produce a complete answer to the question.

The corruptive nature of media has been an
issue which society and philosophers have contended with since the early
Greek/Roman times. Plato set a precedent for society which would later unravel
into debates on the consequences of watching too much television and playing
violent video games. He set this precedent by clarifying that certain plays and
poetry could negatively impact youth and should therefore be burned (Ferguson,
2010). In the 1930s social research commissioned on the basis of links between
watching movies and aggressive behaviour (Ferguson, 2010). This research set a
precedent for all future research to come in this topic, in that it was found
that there were lacks of control groups in the studies, as well as a difficulty
in measuring levels of aggression.

Fear of crime exists outside the realms of
societal pretences and instead is a condition embedded within the human psyche.
Levels of crime and security within any society are obvious predictors for levels
of fear of crime, furthermore, predictors could be factors such as past
experiences, demographic factors, and the perception of insecurity; which as of
recently has emerged as a social problem. 
Jean Baudrillard’s theory of hyperreality is one which will be closely
considered in the answering of the question posed in the title. Fear of crime
and hyperreality are associated in that Surette (1998) put forward that fiction
is closer to news than to reality, this statement being founded upon a study
performed by Mandel (1984) which determined that between 1945 and 1984 over 10
billion crime thrillers were produced. Cultivation theory is most often used to explain the effects
of exposure to certain media and was introduced in the 1970s by George Gerbner.
Gerbner’s research concluded that heavy exposure to media content could over an
extended time period influence individuals attitudes and behaviour towards
being “more consistent with the world of television programs than with the
everyday world” (Chandler 1995). Results taken
from Dowler (2003) indicate that “viewing crime shows is significantly related
to fear of crime and perceived police effectiveness.” Dowler goes onto mention
that regular crime drama viewers are more likely to “hold negative attitudes
toward police effectiveness, although “regular viewers of crime shows are more
likely to fear or worry about crime. Similarly, regular crime drama viewers are
more likely to hold negative attitudes toward police effectiveness, although a
bivariate analysis indicated that newspapers as primary source of crime news
and hours of television viewing are not significantly related to fear of crime,
punitive attitudes or perceived police effectiveness.”

Fear of crime
and the mass media share a relationship which is dependent on its audience
(Heath and Gilbert, 1996). Dowler (2003) reported that local crime news
“increased fear among those who lived in the reported area, whereas non-local
crime news had the opposite effect” (Albany.edu, 2018). Local crime news has the effect of increasing
fear of crime in occupants of higher crime neighbourhoods, furthermore,
research has also elucidated that individuals whom both watch a lot of crime
related television and live in high risk neighbourhoods also had higher levels
of fear of crime than their counterparts who did not (Dowler, 2003). An
individual’s personal experiences, ethnicity, age, income, influence whether or
not media has an impact on them. Individuals with prior experience of any involvement
in crimes prior to watching crime related television would not become fearful
of them afterwards, whereas an individual who has no prior experience being
involved in crime, would become more fearful after watching particular news or
television dramas (Liska & Baccaglini, 1990). Gerbner et al (1980) found
that “the relationship between the fear of crime and the amount of television
watched was greatest for females and white people”; Gerbner (1980) also pointed
towards ‘female, whites and elderly people as more likely to have a fear of
crime’; despite their lower likelihoods in finding themselves victims of it”
(Dowler, 2003).

Only a minor subsection of the population have first-hand
experience of violent crime, in reference to this, the majority of people whom
have not had any direct contact with violent crime, believe the world is worse
than it is; the result of this is major sections of the population within
societies becoming more afraid of getting victimized than need be (McQuivey
1997). The fear victimization paradox is founded
on one’s ability/inability to master involvement in a violent crime. Fear
Victimization paradox exists independently of the likelihood of involvement in
crime, it can happen despite the likelihood an individual could be very likely
become involved in a violent crime; “a truck driver in the middle of the night
at a rest area, its fear of crime might not be high because it thinks that it
has control over such a situation” (Sandman 1993; Sparks and Ogles 1990). Vanderveen
(2003) posits that “men usually think they can handle it. Women feel more
vulnerable”, in reality however, men are more likely to become a victim of a
crime (Bureau of Statistic and Research 1996). Past undertaken research has
suggested that crime information portrayed in the form of facts and figures,
have no influence on said individual’s perception of crime, furthermore, that
media influence is just one of many factors to be taken into account when
analysing prevalence to fear of crime, whether on an individual or societal
basis (McQuivey, 1997). Older people have a greater fear of becoming a victim
of crime ‘because they believe they are more vulnerable’ than younger members
in society (Carcach et. al., 2001). Their physical fitness and strength has
declined leaving them in a weakened state, and therefore possibly targeting
them as easy victims as they are less likely to be able to defend themselves
(Carcach et. al., 2001). Gerbner et
al (1980) confirmed his previous research in that those individuals who watch
more television than average showed a ‘higher rate of fear towards their
environment’ than those who watched less. More recently Dowler (2003) found
that even when taking into account factors such as race, age, gender, income,
education and marital status, those individuals whom watch more crime shows
tend to exhibit a significantly higher rate of being fearful of crime (Dowler,
2003). Dowler went on to discover that hours of watching television news
programs did not have a significant relationship with higher levels of fear of
crime (Dowler, 2003).

Hyperreality
acts as a pretext for socio-political regression (Miller, 1997). For Eco
(1987), Disneyland’s fantasy order is the opposite of the rest of the world,
supposedly real, when in fact, the whole of America and the world are the
hyperreal simulation. This ‘perfect crime’ (Baudrillard, 1995) is not abstract:
in 2004, two English children were mauled to death by bears in a zoo after
having climbed into their cage; brought up on cartoons, they only knew about
cuddly teddy bears.

By the 1970s the crime or police drama had replaced the
western for the most prevalent prime-time television fare (Doyle, 2006). The
boundary between crime entertainment and crime information has been blurred
progressively more in the past years (Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2006).
Roughly half of the newspapers and television items people come into contact
with are concerned with crime, justice or deviance (Doyle, 2006). The mass
media has influence over the way people look at crime; and as a result the
images offered to the public are one of differing appearance to the ones
founded on facts and figures, represented by the government (Doyle, 2006).
(Surrette, 2006) goes onto point out that crime in the media has become
formatted in a way that it is camouflaged as to depict an informative and
realistic nature. The research appreciates that images which people see on
television are compared against the world which they see, this being the foundation
upon which people’s perspectives between crime on the media and real life become
distorted; as a result people fall into a hyperrealistic state in which their idealistic
conception of reality, portrayed by the media; has replaced their real one
(Surrette, 2006).

Flately
(2010) also points out that there has been a steady fall in crime since 1995,
but people still tend to believe that it is increasing. Public belief in rising
crime levels, as aforementioned, can be directly correlated to increasing
levels of the media’s representation of crime. Fear of crime is something which
can be used as a tool by government in that a certain level of fear of crime is
desirable to inspire problem solving action and inspire the fearful to take
precautions; “exaggerated
public perceptions of crime risks can also lead to serious distortions in
government spending priorities and policy making” (Bureau of Statistic and
Research 1996). Functional fear is a tool used by the masses for the
purposes of self-preservation, although this is often taken out of personal
context and, one would argue, has led to people’s preconceived views in
reference to the pertinence of crime in their environment, giving rise social
isolation and the breakdown of social cohesion and solidarity.