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Murder rates in Australian have moved up and down at about the same time, in about the same way. 

That’s interesting, because as this NZ Herald article points out, most people believe that crime rates, and especially rates of violent crime, are increasing.

People think there is more violent crime because we see so much more violence than we did. Without the media you could live a lifetime and never hear of anyone being murdered. Most of us will go through our lives without anyone close to us being a victim of violent crime. But we see violent crime everyday on the news and in TV shows and movies. So our perception is that the world around us is much more dangerous than it is.

These results confirms that media has a strong influence, compared with our own experience, on our beliefs about levels of crime:

An institute survey of 1400 people in four parts of New Zealand – including South Auckland – found that 80 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the country’s crime rate was rising. Only 4 per cent disagreed. Yet the same survey – which has yet to be published – found that only a quarter of the people surveyed believed crime was rising in their own neighbourhoods.

Increasing urbanisation, and desensitisation to violence with the rise of TV, may have contributed to the rise in murder rates from about 1970. But what has caused the recent decline?

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