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20-Year Study Shows Texans Feel Safer at Home
Texans fear walking alone in their neighborhoods or being alone in their homes at night much less than they did 20 years ago, according to a Texas Crime Poll conducted by the Sam Houston State University Criminal Justice Center.
Only about one in three (33 percent) reported living within a mile of an area where they would be afraid of walking alone at nighttime, compared with over half (54 percent) who reported such fears in the first Texas Crime Poll 20 years ago.
Only slightly over one in five (21 percent) of the 1998 sample reported that they were afraid of being alone in their own homes at night, compared to almost half (46 percent) in the 1978 sample.
Other findings of the Center's Survey Research Program, in a July 1998 telephone survey of 548 Texans contacted by the Texas A&M University Public Policy Research Institute on behalf of SHSU included:
"One of the most noteworthy findings is the dramatic increase in the number of Texans who think there is a direct relationship between media depiction of crime and violence and the actual crime rate," said Dennis Longmire, director of the Survey Research Program.
In 1978, only one in four (25 percent) of the respondents thought that movie violence was causing a large increase in the crime rate, with a slightly higher number (28 percent) attributing such influence to television. In 1998 these figures almost doubled with 47 percent blaming movies and 48 percent blaming television. In 1998 more than one in three (36 percent) blamed music for crime rate increases. That category was not available for response on the first survey 20 years ago.
Whether or not Texans support the death penalty has been a continuing Texas Crime Poll question since its first survey. In 1998, five in eight (83 percent) supported it, compared to 79 percent 20 years ago. The phrasing of the death penalty questions on the two surveys differed slightly. The 1998 survey also included questions on support for the death penalty for women and juveniles convicted of murder.
"Clearly, the public's support for the death penalty in general is not affected by the gender of the murderer," said Longmire. "Almost 80 percent of Texas' citizens say they support the death penalty for women convicted of murder."
Despite the five percent willing to execute children five years or younger, only half (49 percent) believed that juveniles should be given this sanction. Most of those supporting its use would restrict it to those 16 or 17 years old (45 percent of those specifying an age).
When all respondents were asked if they would support the death penalty if a "true life sentence without the possibility for parole" were available, six in 10 (60 percent) said they would. Longmire calls these the "true death penalty supporters." Almost seven in 10 (69 percent) Texans said they thought juveniles charged with property crimes should be tried as adults, and almost nine in 10 (88 percent) favored handling juvenile offenders charged with personal violent crimes as adults. In 1998 five of eight (83 percent) of Texans responding said they had "a great deal" or "some" confidence in their local police with seven of eight (86 percent) expressing such confidence in the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The lowest confidence ratings went to state juvenile parole (41 percent) followed closely by adult parole (42 percent), state juvenile prisons (43 percent) and local juvenile probation (43 percent).
Higher ratings went to state adult prisons (57 percent), the state criminal justice system as a whole (63 percent) and local adult criminal courts (67 percent).
Little has changed in 20 years in the overall level of fear Texans have about becoming victims of crimes such as rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft or vandalism. In the most recent survey 59 percent were concerned that they would become a victim of at least one of the crimes, compared with 57 percent in 1978.
The 1998 Texas Crime Poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
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