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More than one in three true crime fans admit they have investigated partners, friends and colleagues

  • Research by The University of Law (ULaw) reveals 35% of true crime fanatics have recently investigated people around them

  • ULaw’s data also shows fans of this genre are more likely to have taken steps to protect themselves from crime this year

  • A former homicide detective and lecturer in policing reveals whether true crime is making us savvier, or just paranoid

If you have a true crime fan in your life, you may want to watch your back as new research reveals 35% have recently investigated their partners, exes, colleagues, or friends.

What’s more, people who regularly consume true crime media are more likely to have taken measures to protect themselves from crime compared to those who don’t. When asked about a range of protective measures including installing CCTV, personal alarms and even deleting social media channels, 84% of true crimes fans had done at least one.

The new findings from ULaw explore how the boom in popularity of true crime may be affecting criminal justice in the real world, revealing whether the genre could really create a generation of amateur detectives or if it’s simply making us all more paranoid.  

When asked if they believe their skills would be useful in a criminal investigation, 49% of true crime fans agreed. Furthermore, 70% support the idea of using evidence from “Internet sleuths” in court cases.

However, there is an argument that those who have been influenced by the true crime genre may simply be more paranoid due to the media they consume. Fans of true crime are more than twice as likely to have investigated a conspiracy theory in the past year compared to non-fans (14% vs 6%). A small percentage even admit to going as far as installing phone tracking apps (2%).

Considering online behaviour, ULaw’s data shows many are conscious of their online footprint. More than one in four people (29%) admit that in the past year they have changed their social media to private or just deleted it all together – 18% have also reviewed their personal information online.

When it comes to personal protection, whether it’s paranoia or not, fans of true crime could be one step ahead.

Ally White, a former police detective and lecturer in Professional Policing at ULaw explains: “Regardless of why they’re doing it, we can see from our research that those who regularly consume true crime media are more likely to take measures to protect themselves from crime. One in three (33%) have installed CCTV, more than one in four (27%) have installed home alarms, and 13% have joined their local neighbourhood watch.

“The boom in popularity of true crime may have created a little bit of paranoia among some, however the above are all sensible measures to protect yourself against crime. If true crime documentaries help people to stay vigilant then that’s a positive outcome.”

While personal protection may be a positive, the rise of so-called “Internet sleuths” is a new phenomenon causing some concern in the legal world. The term refers to those who research crimes online in their own home and gather evidence, which 70% of people agree should then be used in court. However, many are unaware of the risks involved with sharing details of a criminal case online.

More than one in five (44%) people polled by ULaw didn’t know that sharing details of court case online could lead to their own prosecution. Those who are fans of the crime genre are savvier, although a significant proportion (31%) are still running the risk of jeopardising a case or facing prosecution for being in contempt of court.

Ally adds: “The idea of taking evidence from amateur ‘Internet sleuths’ is concerning from a criminal justice perspective. There are so many ways in which this could be flawed – bias, false information, poor evidence handling to name just a few. In sharing information relating to a criminal case not only would you jeopardise the whole case, potentially risking a guilty party being let off, but you would also run the risk of your own prosecution or at least a hefty fine.

“We need to remember that almost everything we see on our screens is dramatised and created solely for entertainment purposes. If it helps to create good personal protection habits then that’s a positive, however it’s probably best to avoid obsessing over conspiracies and leave the investigating to the professionals.”

 

To find out more about studying professional policing programmes at The University of Law, visit: https://www.law.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/policing/.