News media coverage of crime and violent drug crime: A case for cause of Catalyst?



Evidence about the relationship between exposure to media violence and criminal activity remains mixed. While some scholars argue that exposure to violent media content "triggers" crime and aggression, others contend that media may influence crime, but only as a source of information about techniques and styles, not as a motivation for crime. This debate has critical implications for criminal justice academics as calls for policy are regularly made on the basis of research in this area. This article contributes to this literature by presenting detailed empirical evidence of how media coverage of violent crimes affects homicides perpetrated by drug traffickers at Mexico, and their crime style. With an empirical model that addresses possible bidirectionalities between drug homicides and media coverage, we tracked 32,199 homicides, their stylistic characteristics, and their coverage by the press. Our results show that when media covers drug homicides it influences the probability that other criminals use similar styles of crimes, but it does not change overall rates of homicidal activity. This is evidence against the "trigger" hypothesis, and in favor of “copycat” effects.


Last updated on 05/08/2020