BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – “Don’t forget to set the alarm,” and “Remember to lock the door,” are common phrases most of us have heard from family members and roommates while in the process of leaving home for work, school, or other appointments.

Louisiana and crime

In states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Louisiana, the phrases above have an added depth of importance.

Statistics indicate these three states have the highest crime rates per capita; New Mexico takes the top spot, followed by Louisiana at a close second, while Colorado occupies third place.

In our state, the average citizen has a 1 in 157 chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime, according to Neighborhood Scout.

It’s no wonder local leaders across Louisiana continue to helm community events and projects aimed at reducing crime.

During one such event, East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said, “My stance has always, and will continue to be that violence has no place in Baton Rouge… Together, our community, law enforcement, and business leaders are addressing crime and the underlying causes of violence in our community.”

While many Louisiana residents frequently hear statements like the one above and agree that crime is a concerning problem, a number of us still use our free time to listen to true crime podcasts or watch television shows and movies centered around true crime.

This leads some to wonder why we’re instinctively drawn to stomach-turning subjects. Is it strange to enjoy stories about crime?

Do true crime stories offer comfort or increased anxiety?

According to one Digital Trends’ writer, listening to podcasts that analyze unsolved cases from decades ago may have a soothing affect on some listeners.

Christine Persaud explains how a disturbing account about a crime might be soothing by saying, “Ironically, while true crime is rooted in fact, watching these terrible tales about events that took place decades or even just a few years ago offers a strange sense of satisfaction that maybe things are and will be OK, because, well, they could be worse.”

Persaud goes on to relate the feeling above to a German word often linked with psychology: Schadenfreude, which is defined as “Pleasure derived from other people’s suffering.”

Is Persaud implying that we watched ‘The Thing About Pam’ and ‘Candy’ because we have some hidden malicious intent?

No. She explains, that when we watch these shows we feel “relief that it’s happening to someone else and not us.”

Essentially, the two theories above suggest that we seek out stories about crime as a way of comforting ourselves. The comfort comes from knowing that the frightening crime that happened two blocks away from our own home was very similar to a crime that happened decades ago. And just as life went on back then, it will continue to go on now.

A fleeting feeling of comfort may also be derived from the fact that the story we’re listening to or watching does not involve us, we can constantly remind ourselves that what we’re hearing has nothing to do with our lives. And perhaps this makes us feel a tad safer.

Another popular theory, posited by a number of psychologists, is that we want to know the details about a crime so we can better protect ourselves.

For example, someone might think, “If I know how a killer thinks, I’ll be able to anticipate their triggers and avoid becoming a victim. So, that’s why I need to watch ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.'”

Along those lines, Science Focus says, “A 2010 study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that women tend to be drawn towards true crime stories more than men, and that they are most interested in stories that give insight into the killer’s motives, that contain information about how victims escaped, and that feature female victims. So this fits with the evolutionary idea – that people are instinctively drawn towards stories where they can identify with the victim and read about tips and strategies for defeating the ‘baddies’.”

There are numerous theories that attempt to address the reason for America’s fascination with true crime.

But these theories can lead to yet another question: How does consuming numerous accounts of true crime affect the average person’s mental well-being?

One psychologist, Chivonna Childs, Ph.D., feels that it can have a negative impact.

While Childs says that watching true crime is perfectly normal, she adds, “Shows that focus on murder and rape can really take you to a bad place,” Dr. Childs says. “They can help you become more vigilant and aware, but you don’t want to become overly reactive to the point where you’re not leaving your house, you’re not socializing, you’re not functioning.”

One source cites Childs and says, “for all the adrenaline sensationalized stories of crime may evoke, consumers risk developing severe anxiety and paranoia out of a growing inability to separate these terrifying accounts from their real lives.”

In a Cleveland Clinic article, Dr. Childs concludes her findings with the words, “I always tell people that too much of anything is a bad thing, and when we watch too much true crime, we start to worry about the what-ifs. It can cause us to isolate and to not fully live our lives.”

Popular true crime series of 2022

That said, Hollywood continues to produce a number of true crime mini series during 2022.

So far this year, some of the most popular have been ‘Black Bird,’ ‘The Staircase,’ ‘The Girl From Plainville,’ and ‘The Dropout.’

If you have a favorite mini series from this year, let us know what it is on BRProud’s Facebook page, here.