The public wants to know who and where these offenders are, but the public does not know what to do with the information they receive. Often times, releasing information to the public results in angry cries. When the public learns that these offenders are being released into their communities, their fear of these people leads them to fight back. The public often will try to free their communities of the offender: "it sets a person up to be hounded out of every community" (Canadian Press Newswire, July 1996), such as was the case for Roger Bourgeois, a convicted paedophile, who was forced out of Edmonton, and subsequently out of Elkford, BC. Other times, the angry calls of the public can lead to further calls for legislative changes in relation to dangerous offenders, for releasing information about an offender only brings out further fear and anger towards offenders. In reaction to the public, the offender may go underground and away from treatment.
By notifying the community of these offenders, we are not helping society, nor are we reducing recidivism rates. We are simply displacing the problem onto someone else's shoulders, and making it impossible for an offender to be successfully reintegrated: in essence, we are "setting them up to fail" (LeBlanc, 1997, p. 3).
People get their information about crime from a number of sources, but one major source for information is the media. The media are a powerful way of getting messages across to citizens, since up to 95% of people use the media as a prime source for all types of information (MacLatchie, 1987, p. 57). In relation to courts alone, frequent sources of information for respondents were reported as the following: 54% television news, 51% newspapers, 28% radio news, 19% television drama, 18% magazines, 18% people known in the legal profession, 6% having been a juror, 6% other personal court experiences, 9% people known who have been a juror, 10% people known with court experience, and 16% from school or library (Surette, 1992, p. 82).
Many studies have looked at the way in which the media portray crime and how their portrayals effect levels of fear. It has been found that the media tend to disproportionately represent violent accounts of crime. The media cover events which are "intense, exciting, arousing, or extreme" (MacLatchie, 1987, p. 340).
The media have not always expressed such a grand interest in crime, but they always have shown some interest in the subject. In 1922, Lipton (as cited in MacLatchie, 1987) did a study of pre-World War I papers, and found that the papers of that era gave only 6% of their space to crime and violence (p. 340). Interest in crime news has increased greatly in recent years. The Toronto Star was examined, and it was found that from 1991 to 1993, the number of articles on crime increased by 37% (MacDonald, 1995, p. 153). A study done in Canada, in 1988, which examined over 800 newspaper articles, found that over half of the stories dealt with violent crimes, and half of these violent crimes dealt with murder (Bonta & Hanson, 1994, p. 28). This is very disproportionate, considering the fact that violent crimes constitute only approximately 11% of all crimes reported in Canada, and murder constitutes less than 1% of all reported Criminal Code incidents.