The rate of crime in Oregon is the lowest it's been since the 1960s. Yet more than half the Oregonians surveyed in a recent Portland State University (PSU) research project believe that crime in the state has actually gone up.
The findings were compiled by PSU's Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute. They're based on a survey conducted last summer of 1,569 Oregonians over the age of 18.
The survey results showed that 52 percent believed crime in the state increased over the last year, and only 10 percent thought it went down.
Those who thought crime rates were higher tended to be more conservative, had a dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system, had family incomes less than $50,000 a year, had less education than a Bachelors degree, and tended to rank "punishment or enforcement" as top crime control strategies.
The study was not able to pinpoint the exact reasons for the disconnect between perception and reality, but the report's author, Brian Renauer, a PSU associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, said one possible explanation may be that the media - everything from the nightly news to crime dramas - feed the perception of high crime rates.
The report concludes that misperceptions impact trust in public officials, compliance with legal authority, and support for criminal justice legislation.
"Criminal justice practitioners and legislators should be thinking more carefully about how the public perceives crime and the criminal justice system," Renauer said. "This points to a need for better community relations to make sure the public understands what the criminal justice system is actually doing."
About Portland State University (PSU)
Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, making it the largest university in Oregon. PSU's motto is "Let Knowledge Serve the City," and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus exhibits PSU's commitment to sustainability with green buildings, while sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum.
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