Crime News Is A Priority-What This Means For Police and Criminal Justice Agencies


Crime news is a top priority for citizens.

Government agencies and local organizations are an important source of news with some data suggesting that they are accessed more than local newspapers.

If done properly, this is an opportunity for government and the criminal justice system. We will never replace the power of traditional media, but nevertheless, we have influence.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Aspiring drummer.


How Americans get their news and trust in local news sources has immense importance to government and criminal justice agencies.

Per Pew (below), while most people get their news from traditional sources and their digital outlets, it’s interesting as to how many get their news from government agencies and local organizations.

Citizens get their news from a variety of sources thus an individual may read a morning newspaper, listen to the news via a radio station while driving to work, watch the news on a television station in the evening, and go online to a law enforcement agency for the latest crime statistics.

What This Means

I spent thirty years in media and public relations for national and state law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.

Throughout my career, I offered self-produced television shows and video podcasts, radio shows and audio podcasts plus blog articles that appeared in national publications placed on our websites. We created short television shows with Comcast and offered them as video podcasts. We participated in radio and television public affairs shows. We created user-friendly websites.  In short, we produced our own news coverage that conveniently answered a multitude of questions and concerns from the public and interested practitioners.

We won a wide array of national and regional awards for best podcasts, best audio, best television shows, and many others. See my book, “Success With The Media” at Amazon for details as to proactive and reactive media strategies.

This means that if done properly, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have relatively inexpensive products that don’t require a ton of technical know-how to communicate directly with the public. If done ethically, respectfully and inclusively, government agencies have the tools to almost instantly communicate with the public.

This can be especially important for emergency communications and rumor control.

We are no longer dependant on the media to tell our story. But it’s still vitally important to have a respectful and cooperative relationship with traditional media sources.

Why People Listen To Us

Everything is based on credibility. People trust law enforcement, Trust and Cops. Because they see parole and probation, corrections and the court as experts, what they say carries an importance. People may trust local government agencies and find them to be more credible than other sources.

Per Pew, “…the public also has high expectations for their area news providers when it comes to their capacity to be a genuine part of the community. An overwhelming majority of adults say it is at least somewhat important for journalists to understand their community’s history (85%) and to be personally engaged with their local area (81%), and at least four-in-ten deem each very important.”

Per Pew, “A majority of Americans say local journalists should not share their views about local issues: 61%, compared with 36% who say they should.” This has real implications for government-produced audio, video, websites, and news. Whatever we create, it has to be objective, factual and honest. I often invited our detractors to participate in our productions.

How People Get News

The primary sources are radio and television stations. But 56 percent get news from local government agencies, only 54 percent from daily newspapers.

Where People Get Their News

Again, radio and television are the lead sources followed by 68 percent for daily newspapers. But 64 percent get their news from local government.

Local organizations (i.e., community groups) rank a tad higher in both categories.

How Often

As expected, it’s a matter of the frequency of access and traditional news sources lead this category.

Crime Tops The List

Weather tops the list of concerns but crime is the number one news topic followed by traffic. Respondents consider it important to their daily lives. Crime is considered a priority topic but it ranks fourth as to ease of access or a subject that’s “very easy to stay informed about.” That presents an opportunity for justice agencies to fill the gap.

The Bottom Line?

Local government organizations are a major source of news. So are local organizations. It’s an opportunity worth considering.




For more on media and criminal justice issues, see Crime in America


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Research From Pew (edited for brevity)

Wide range of local news interests

Weather, not surprisingly, sits at the top of the list of topics seen as important for day-to-day life, with 70% expressing a daily need for information.

That’s followed by crime (44%), traffic (41%) and news about changing prices (37%). Sports, on the other hand, has the largest segment (34%) who find it neither important nor interesting.

There is some mismatch between the information news consumers want and the level of ease they have in finding it. News about changing prices, for example, ranks third in the portion of people who find it either important or interesting. But among those who find it at least interesting, it ranks 10th in being very easy to stay informed about. Sports is the opposite. It ranks higher in ease of access than in importance or interest. Traffic and transportation news, on the other hand, ranks about equally in both measures.

Local TV stations remain the most relied-on individual source, despite having little online presence

In addition to the various pathways used to get local news – online sites, apps, television, print and radio – consumers can turn to a growing range of specific sources. In most cases these sources now offer content through several pathways. For example, someone who turns to their local newspaper for news can access it in print, via its website or by following the outlet on social media.

To untangle this complex system, this study first asked respondents how often they get local news from each of nine different providers (such as local TV stations or community newspapers), and then asked how they tend to access that source (whether print, television, the internet, etc.).

The results show that local TV stations are the top type of source for local news. About four-in-ten Americans (38%) say they often get news from local TV stations (86% ever do so). Radio stations (from which 20% often get news) and daily newspapers (17%) serve as the next most popular providers of local news.

Beyond these more commonly used providers are a class of sources for local information that few Americans rely on often, but from which most get local news at least occasionally. For example, 12% of Americans often get local news from online forums, while almost six-in-ten ever get news there (59%).

Other provider types in this group are local organizations such as churches or schools (64% get at least some news there), local government agencies or officials (64%), non-daily community newspapers (61%), and newsletters or listservs (59%).

At the bottom of the list – and the only provider that fewer than half ever use for news – is online-only news sources, such as local blogs or nonprofit online news startups.

All in all, 28% of the public often gets news from at least one of six less traditional types of providers asked about here, and a vast majority – 89% – ever get news from at least one of them.

Many Americans turn to the online versions of local news providers

Even as TV stations are a powerhouse source for local news, they are still accessed primarily through the analog format of television sets; this is also true of radio news stations. Fully 76% of those who get news from local TV stations and 81% of those who get news from radio stations primarily go to these providers through the traditional pathway.

But other news providers have a substantial portion of their audience who access them online. Among those who get local news from daily newspapers, for example, 43% primarily access them online while 54% get them mainly in a print format. And nearly half of those who get local news from newsletters or listservs (49%) do so primarily online.

At the same time, few Americans are fully analog or fully digital in the way they get local news. Instead, most (68%) mix online and offline pathways, for example, turning on the TV set to watch their local news station but going online to read the daily newspaper and neighborhood listserv.

Just 7% of Americans indicate that they only use digital pathways as their primary access points. Three times as many U.S. adults (21%) mainly access all providers they get news from through an analog pathway – though this is still also a clear minority.

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