What Does Crime Taste Like? A Test of the McGruff Hypothesis
The practitioner-oriented crime prevention literature is inundated with references to the palatable nature of crime. Research in this area has advanced to such a level that public information campaigns have been launched on various media fronts, with the repeated instruction to help "Take a Bite out of Crime" (see Figure 1 for an example). This is the so-called McGruff Hypothesis.
Here, we report on our research regarding the taste of crime, and the ability of the average citizen to actually help in the U.S. federally supported public policy campaign to eat crime.
Two primary research questions are addressed: (1) Can research subjects distinguish the taste of crime from a placebo? and (2) Can research subjects physically take a bite into, or out of, crime?
Researchers traveled to a nearby mega-mall, and, using the popular "mall-intercept" technique, selected 516 of the least threatening (subjective judgment) shoppers to be subjects in the research. Sample demographic statistics (not shown, but available upon request) accurately reflect the population of study. Specifically, of the 516 subjects, 77% are female, and 83% were age 60 or greater at the time of the sampling.
Using a double-blind research design, both researchers and research subjects were blindfolded. They were then randomly assigned and given either the leg of an active convicted criminal, or a placebo of roast beef (see Figure 2).
Subjects were first instructed to lick the substance provided to them, then indicate their perceived taste.
Subjects were then instructed to take a bite out of the substance.
Research assistants recorded the two outcome measurements on a standard data collection instrument. The first variable of interest, the taste of crime, was labeled "Taste." Its value was recorded dichotomously as either "Crime" or "Not Crime." The second variable, the ability to take a bite out of crime, was labeled "Can Be Bitten?" and recorded dichotomously as either "Yes" or "No."
Despite widespread movement in the field of criminology toward sophisticated statistical techniques, we chose to model our data using conventional cross-tabular analysis.
Table 1 presents the results of Phase 1 of the research protocol. As can be seen, of the 253 subjects who received a convict, all were able to identify the substance as crime. In contrast, of the 263 subjects who received a placebo of roast beef, all were able to correctly identify the substance.
Table 1: Results of "Taste" Analysis
|Taste: Crime||Taste: Not Crime|
Table 2 presents the results of Phase 2 of the research protocol. As can be seen, of the 253 subjects who received a convict, none were able to bite the substance. In contrast, of the 263 subjects who received a placebo of roast beef, all were able to bite the substance.
Table 2: Results of "Can Bite" Analysis
|Can be bitten? YES||Can be Bitten? NO|
Discussion and Conclusion
Our research contributes to the developing body of literature on the palatability of crime. Our results indicate that the average citizen can taste crime, but cannot take a bite out of it.
Considering the large amount of federal funds allocated for the propagation of the McGruff Hypothesis, more research is needed to replicate our findings around the country. Our research also highlights an important direction for future research, namely, does crime leave a bad taste in one's mouth? We encourage interested readers to join in this challenging research agenda.
© Copyright 2000 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)