Mind the gap: bridging perception and reality with crime information

Available from: 
October 2013
Paper author(s): 
Mauricio Ruiz-Vega (Inter-American Development Bank)
Ana Corbacho (Inter-American Development Bank)
Martin Ardanaz (Inter-American Development Bank)
Conflict, Crime and Violence

Gains from government crime-reducing programs are not always visible to the average citizen. Episodes of crime are overexposed by the media, who exploit the adverse selection in the market for news in order to capture more audience. This information asymmetry creates misled perceptions of high levels of insecurity in the population. In this paper, we follow an experimental approach to test the effect of reducing information asymmetries in crime perception by communicating objective crime trends to citizens. The survey experiment was carried out in Bogota, a city that experienced a substantial reduction in homicides in the past decade, as well as a noticeable recent drop in robberies. We find that information improves perceptions of safety and of police effectiveness, and lowers distrust in the police. However, the information treatment is not able to impact those with very biased priors about the crime situation and tends to weaken over time. Active and regular engagement with citizens on objective crime trends may be needed to achieve long-term benefits of crime-reducing policies.


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Research section: 
Lacea 2013 annual meeting
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