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Crime Shows Ignore Real Crime


The US Department of Justice released a very important report in January, but it got little attention. The report found that 80 percent of crime in the US was gang related and that the vast majority of that was drug related.

Those of us who have worked with crime data have long understood this problem. For example, 50 percent of counties in the US have zero murders in any given year and another 25 percent have just one murder. Over 70 percent of murders take place in just a little over 3 percent of the counties, but even that exaggerates the picture because anyone who has seen a picture of murders in a major city know how heavily concentrated they are in specific areas within the city.

I looked at I-Tunes descriptions for seasons seven and nine of “CSI” and seasons four and five of “CSI NY” as well as some episodes of “Law & Order,” but I can’t seem to find any episodes that deal with gangs. I found “Law & Order” shows that dealt with gang rape, but that is obviously not the same as gang violence. During the first season there is a murder by a doctor at a hospital, a white woman who guns down two blacks, a gay man killed because he was gay, a man who kills his lovers, and on and on during the first season.

The cases dreamed up for TV shows may make interesting viewing, but just remember they have little to do with more than a tiny minority of the crime in the US. Sometimes a show like “Law & Order” latches on to a real life event that has been in the news to form the basis for a script, but the reason they latch on to those pieces of news is their desperate desire to be relevant. The shows have other inaccuracies over who the criminals are and how the cases are solved, but that will be something for a later post.

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