Free Essay About Copycat Crime
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Crime, Social Issues, Media, Criminal Justice, Violence, People, Law, Future
The concept of copycat crime is related to a form of criminal act that was inspired or modeled by a similar crime that was described in fiction work or reported in a given media channel (Surette, 2014). It is critical to note that at times, high-profile crimes tend to inspire some individuals to commit similar criminal activities. In a number of cases, police authorities have argued that suspects were trying to be like those who committed similar crimes in the past. It is evident that media coverage of various issues affecting the society can have a negative or positive impact on the society. The coverage of criminal activities in the media has changed drastically over the years with much attention being given to high profile criminal activities. For instance, in the 1960s, media used to cover small criminal activities, such as petty crimes, but things have changed nowadays with the media covering high profile criminal activities, such as mass shooting and others. The way media covers various high profile crimes can either inspire or not inspire individuals to commit similar crimes. This paper seeks to provide how media exposure can inspire some individual to engage in similar criminal activity and the way in which it cannot inspire some individuals as far as copycat crime is concerned.
It is crucial to understand that there are a number of ways in which the media exposure of certain crimes can inspire other people to commit similar crimes. One of the ways in which the media can inspire copycat crime is through the language that is used in the coverage. For instance, in most cases, the media coverage of certain crimes such as gun shooting, uses words that inspire certain individuals to engage in similar crime in the future. In cases where the media use words that make the shooter appear like a hero, or like he has done something extraordinary may inspire some individuals who are after getting fame to commit similar crimes in the future (Surette, 2013). For example, the use of a word, successful killer may make an individual try to emulate the same person who committed the crime in question so that he can be said to be successful. Therefore, the choice of language used in reporting various types of crime should be reviewed to ensure that it does not play any role in encouraging any person to commit similar crime in the future.
Secondly, the aspect of glorifying the crime being covered can also result in copycat crime in the future. It is important to note that giving too much time to a certain crime makes the media appear like it is trying to glorify the individual who committed the crime. Hence, some people who may be after getting media coverage for the wrong reasons get inspired to commit a similar crime with a huge negative impact so that they can receive much coverage. In this case the media acts as a tool of inspiring persons to take part in similar criminal activities so that they can receive the same coverage like the individuals who have carried out similar crimes in the past.
Thirdly, it is also important that the failure of the media to indicate the negative implications of the individual committing the crime under coverage, may also inspire some persons to commit the same crime (Surette, 2013). When covering the crime of great magnitude, it is critical for the media to ensure that it creates awareness to the members of the public of the legal actions that will be taken against the perpetrator. In most cases the media only cover the aspect of the crime, in terms of how it was committed without analyzing the legal implications that the one who carried it out will face. Failure to cover the negative implications of committing a given crime inspire individuals to take part in similar crimes given that they are not aware of the legal penalties for carrying that crime. Therefore, failure of the media to cover the penalties involved when one carries out a certain crime, contributes in encouraging certain members of the community to engage in similar crimes in the future.
On the other hand, the way media covers fictions related to crime, for instance movies on high profile crimes inspires so many individuals to engaging themselves in copycat criminal activities (Surette, 2013). In some movies, those who commit certain crimes commit them out of revenge or inspiration to provide for their families before they die. For example, in the tv show ‘Breaking Bad’, the main actor starts engaging in the business of manufacturing and selling drugs after realizing that he has cancer. He intended to live a good fortune for his family behind. The coverage of this movie in the media exposes individual to some negative thoughts, that one can engage in criminal activities for the good reasons. For example, one can engage in the business of drugs for the sake of providing for his children and ensuring that they have a good life in the future. This indicates that at times media coverage of certain fictitious activities usually make certain activities appear as if they are not bad, as they are done for the good reasons. Thereby, many people end up emulating characters who engage in those activities, forgetting that committing similar crimes in real life situation will attract heavy legal penalties.
Additionally, the coverage of certain violent criminal activities can inspire individual to engage in copycat crime. For instance, coverage of news on violence against certain communities can inspire the members of the community being targeted by the violence to retaliate and attack the community being violent towards it (Surette, 2014). Therefore, the way media covers crimes related to violence, at times unless regulated or the choice of word, should be very careful can inspire violence against various communities in our society. For example, the Rwanda genocide was inspired by the media, by covering the news showing that certain community was being targeted by the other, thereby inspiring the members of the targeted community to also attack the other community resulting in mass murder.
However, it is important to note that there are ways in which the media exposure cannot inspire individuals engage in copycat crimes. To start with, the right choice of words that brings a clear picture that the crime in question should not be committed by any person can discourage individuals from engaging in similar crime. Words are very powerful when covering certain subjects, hence; ensuring that the word chosen condemn the one who carried out the crime in question, play a critical role in ensuring that there is no copycat crime in the future. The media should, thus, ensure that it does not glorify in any way those who commit crimes in their news coverage, but rather should condemn them and make them appear like they are bad.
On the other hand, in cases where the media shows detailed information on the crime victims or survivor grief can help in discouraging people to engaging in similar crimes (Helfgott, Jacqueline, 2008). The suffering of the victims should act as an indication to the members of the general public that carrying out the crimes result in the negative impact on the lives of many people. Hence, it can act as a form of discouragement for people who have human act. It is also important to note that the nature of crime in question also determines the level extent of suffering that people are going through that should expose by the media. For instance, in the cases of terrorism crimes, it is critical for the media to ensure that it limits the coverage of the fear caused by the act of terror. Showing images of how people are terrified can encourage terrorists to act in the future, with an objective of causing more fear to the members of the public.
In addition, it is crucial for the media to show the negative legal implication of the people who commit certain crime. This will help in discouraging people to take part in copycat crimes given that they are aware that they will face huge legal penalties once they commit a certain crime (Helfgott, 2008). Showing the penalty of committing a crime during news coverage of a given crime, like mass murder can discourage any person who have an idea of carrying out a copycat crime of the same magnitude. Finally, when covering violent news it is important for the media to avoid situations where it appears like it is encouraging more people to take part in the violence. On the contrary, media should be a tool of discouraging people to take part in the violence by showing the negative implication of the violence on the lives of victims and those perpetrating the violence (Surette, 2014).
In conclusion, it is evident that negative media coverage of the news on certain high profile cases, encourages members of the community to engage in copycat crimes. On the other hand, when the media cover the news of various crimes in a way that it appears it is discouraging similar crimes, can play a crucial role in ensuring that individuals do not engage in copycat crime. Hence, it is important for the media to ensure that it does not glorify crimes, but rather condemns them so as to discourage copycat crimes in the future.
Helfgott, Jacqueline (2008). Criminal Behavior: Theories, Typologies and Criminal Justice. Sage Publications, inc. pp. 377–391.
Surette, R. (2013). Cause or catalyst: The interaction of real world and media crime models. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(3), 392-409.
Surette, R. (2014). Media, crime, and criminal justice. Cengage Learning.