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Estimating the Magnitude and Mechanisms of Copycat Crime (From The Media and Criminal Justice Policy, P 87-101, 1990, Ray Surette, ed. -- See NCJ-125773)

NCJ Number
R Surette
Date Published
15 pages
Using anecdotal evidence and a review of relevant literature, this study examines the dynamics of the media's influence on "copycat" crimes.
Crimes whose techniques and methods copy crimes to which the perpetrators have been exposed in the media are know as "copycat" crimes. This study indicates that copycat crime is a persistent social phenomena, common enough to influence the total crime picture mostly by influencing crime techniques rather than the motivation to commit a crime or the development of criminal tendencies. A copycat criminal is likely to be a career criminal involved in property offenses rather than a first-time violent offender. The specific relationship between media coverage and the commission of copycat crime is currently unknown, and the social-context factors influencing copycat crimes have not been identified. The tentative model of copycat crime proposed by this chapter consists of a process of identification and priming leading to some degree of generalized imitation. This chapter's suggested research uses in policymaking are to identify the characteristics of the at-risk population and then to limit the size of this population through deterrence efforts. 15 footnotes, 64 references.


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