Opinion | Individual crimes can have negative effects on the public, too

A recent string of crimes in Iowa City will yield negative effects on University of Iowa constituents.


Grace Smith

Photo illustration.

Kyle Tristan Ortega, Opinions Columnist

All of us are aware that victims of criminal behavior suffer greatly. From physical injuries to the loss or destruction of personal property, victimization yields negative short-term and long-term consequences. However, crimes affect the public as well. With the recent string of crimes occurring in Iowa City, it is important to realize the effects this may have on the University of Iowa community.

In the span of a week, three violent crimes were reported to the Iowa City Police: one on March 31, April 4, and the last on April 7. This is a cause for concern because members of the Iowa City community, regardless of their relationship with the victims, could face psychological repercussions.

Under the federal Clery Act, universities like the UI must disclose information about crimes to prevent similar crimes and assist in the identification of offenders. The notices’ purpose is to provide information students, faculty, and staff may need to ensure personal safety.

Sean Kearney, a graduate student in medical sociology, said the recent crimes can make Iowa City seem like a more violent area than it is.

“The impact of these crimes occurring and how they’re communicated creates the idea that we are a violent community because they happened over a short period of time, and they were blasted out to the student body via the crime alerts,” he said. “It creates an environment where people are afraid. I don’t want students to think Iowa City is unsafe because Iowa, on the whole, is an incredibly safe community to live in for most people.”

But how exactly are uninvolved individuals affected? Studies show that the awareness of potential crime and the perceived risks derived from this increases fear of crime.

Moreover, with UI’s Crime Alert system, information regarding crime occurrences gets disseminated quickly. Thus, the rates at which the public is made aware of the possibility of victimization also happens quickly.

The fear of crime poses adverse problems as an individual with high levels of it experiences a diminished quality of life in that they become overly cautious and forsake some of their personal enjoyments, such as going outside at night for parties and social gatherings, out of concern for their safety.

Additionally, a heightened fear of crime leads to poorer mental and physical health. In a long-term study, participants who reported a greater fear of crime were 1.93 times more likely to have depression than their lower-feared counterparts. Consequently, this resulted in the former getting less exercise and less social interaction compared to the latter, explaining their more deteriorated health as the reason.

Crime instills fear, regardless of whether this fear is necessary or not. What it all boils down to is public perception. In an environment where perceptions of crime are high (i.e., an area where a crime just occurred), members of a community begin to fear criminal actions being taken against them. Therefore, they are more susceptible to the negative consequences of fearing crime.

In essence, though the victims of crime are those most affected by criminal behavior, crimes occurring have negative consequences on the whole community as high public perceptions of crime produce a heightened fear of victimization.

This heightened fear leads to detrimental physical and psychological issues. It is important to recognize the negative effects crimes have on the victims and the public.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.