THE PROS AND CONS OF PUBLICITY CAMPAIGNS AS A CRIME CONTROL TACTIC 1
A Summary of “THE PROS AND CONS OF PUBLICITY CAMPAIGNS AS A CRIMECONTROL TACTIC” by Lorraine Mazerolle
The article, ‘The Pros and Cons of Publicity Campaigns as a CrimeControl Tactic’ by Mazerolle Lorraine seeks to understand publicitycampaigns as a tool that is used to prevent or reduce crime in thesociety. Below is a summary of their findings.
Mazerolle agrees with other researchers agree that publicity plays acritical role in crime control. One of the aims of her article was todetermine whether the effectiveness of promotion vary by type of theoffence. The author argued that some crimes are resistant to thepublicity campaigns while others are not related to the amount ortype of advertisement. For instance, homicide rates, vandalism, andcar theft are unrelated to promotion whereas anti-drug campaigns areaggravating drug related crimes although statistics indicate thatdrug crimes vary among the target population. Hence, the type ofoffence determines the credibility of a campaign because for issuessuch as drinking and driving their campaigns provide encouragingresults.
The article also sought to understand how policymakers ‘time’ theintroduction and subsequent withdrawal of publicity campaigns. Theauthor believes that existing laws and the nature of the campaigninfluence the timing of advertising campaigns. She also argued thatpolitically motivated publicity campaigns tend to have a limitedshelf-time thus less efficient. A comparison of “Just Say No”anti-drugs campaign to “Take a Bite out of Crime” shows that the“Just Say No” was ineffective (Mazerolle, 2003). The reason wasthat its timing was politically motivated, and its message to thepublic was misguided. On the contrary, “Take a Bite out of Crime”was an appropriate crime-control mechanism because the National CrimePrevention Council launched it when criminal activities were at thepeak within the society. Besides, the council strategically devised amessage that would reach a large population thus making the tacticmore active during its opening stages.
Mazerolle also discusses the issue of diminishing returns onpublicity campaigns. An analysis of the publicity spending on thecrime control campaigns indicates that the amount spent varies fromone drive to another. Therefore, the diminishing returns are notlinear because the offence prevention interventions have proved to bemore efficient in the initial stages rather than in the final stages.The author believed that the message of the publicity campaignsshould be regularly updated and relate to the social issues andcultural practices of a community. In this way, the threshold of thediminishing returns for publicity campaigns shall be linear to thepublic spending.
One of the limitations of publicity campaigns as crime controlinterventions is its backfire effect. The anti-crime campaigns arelikely to be counterproductive because of failure of the publicitymessage to reach the identified audience. The author argues thatpeople’s perception and demographics are essential factors thatshould be considered when developing the content of a publicitymessage. The backfire effect also arises from the impact of thecampaign on the target audience. For example, if the interventioninduces fear, the people’s understanding of crime might bedistorted resulting in potential adverse effects of fear of theoffences.
In summary, publicity campaigns are beneficial in controllingparticular crimes such as burglary and driving under the influence ofalcohol. They can also reduce or prevent crime if the interventionsare timed appropriately, and the possible adverse consequences aretaken into consideration.
Mazerolle, L. (2003). The Pros and Cons of Publicity Campaigns as aCrime Control Tactic. Criminology & Public Policy, 2(3),531-541.