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Taking a Bite Out of Crime - The Impact of a Mass Media Crime Prevention Campaign - A Synopsis

NCJ Number
G J O'Keefe; H Mendelson; K Reid-Nash; E Henry; B Rosenzweig; H T Spetnagel
Date Published
12 pages
Surveys conducted in l98l showed that the 'Take a Bite Out of Crime' national media campaign sponsored by the Crime Prevention Coalition in cooperation with the Advertising Council achieved considerable success in fostering public awareness of prevention methods, positive atitudes about effectiveness of citizen prevention activities, and feelings of competence regarding self-protection against crime.
The campaign's symbol is a trench-coated cartoon dog named McGruff who gives specific tips on crime prevention through public service announcements (PSA) disseminated by the media at their own expense and in materials used by local community-based prevention programs. The McGruff PSA's were one of the most popular advertising Council campaigns, with over $50 million in time and print space being donated annually by media outlets during the first 2 years. Public response to the campaign was assessed in a national survey of l,200 adults conducted in November l982 and a panel survey of 426 adults in 3 cities before the campaign began and 2 years later. The national survey indicated that just over half the adult population had seen or heard the McGruff PSA's during the first 2 years of the campaign, primarily on television. The campaign reached a demographically diverse population, but was particularly effective with persons who saw themselves as less knowledgeable about crime prevention techniques and those who believed citizen-based prevention techniques to be more effective. The vast majority of persons who had seen or heard the PSA's were favorably impressed, but young adults were the most impressed of all age groups. About a fourth of the national sample exposed to the campaign said they had taken preventive actions as a result of the PSA's, and panel members who had seen the ads showed significant gains in crime prevention actions over those who had not. The report also discussed the campaign's different impacts which were related to an individual's characteristics, circumstances, and perceived vulnerability to crime and implications of the survey findings for future media efforts.