From SSRN (Social Science Research Network)
The Face of Crime in Prime Time: Evidence from “Law and Order”I pointed out in 2005 that “L&O” producer Dick Wolf had taken author Tom Wolfe’s satirical 1987 concept of the Hunt for the Great White Defendant and played it literally for great riches.
Race, gender, and crime are inextricably linked in people’s minds. And television programming is thought to strongly influence how they are linked. We investigate the extent to which popular television programming perpetuates stereotypical linkages by tallying the race and gender of criminals and victims in three popular series of the most successful criminal procedural franchise on television — Law & Order. Using data from a census of the shows from aired seasons of Special Victims Unit and Criminal Intent series, and data from seven seasons of the Original series, we find that whites and women are overrepresented (and blacks and men underrepresented), both as victims and as criminals. In particular, blacks are dramatically underrepresented both as criminals and as victims, with actual arrest rate and violent victimization rate of blacks nearly 300% and 200% respectively of the commensurate numbers for the show.
UCR means FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database.