Fear; it’s a cover up and it’s wrapped up.

by John Darvall

Be safe, feel safe. This is the mantra of Avon and Somerset Police, it’s part of the nine crime plans across the West of England and the Police and Crime Commissioner believes the phrase encapsulates all she is trying to achieve. The reality is that overall crime rates are falling by every measure and, despite less police officers being on the streets, you are safer now than you have ever been. Yes, certain crimes are on the rise, cyber crime seeing the biggest increase of all, but you are safer than you have been for many years. Yes you really are. You don’t feel it though do you? The fear of crime is significantly greater than the reality of crime.

There is a whole industry out there playing to your fears and hoping to make you feel safer. It preys on your fears, creates and magnifies your fears and uses the odd incident or accident to make you more fearful it could happen to you too. Nothing makes this more clear than the industry that makes covers for mobile phones. Every phone designed is made as a complete object. It’s not made to fail, to fall apart or not to withstand the odd accidental drop so why would you buy a cover for a phone? Fear. You buy the mobile phone cover fearful that if you don’t have one you might damage your phone. Do you honestly think that the brains at Apple or Samsung created their cutting edge technology, starting selling it and then thought ‘bugger, I wish we’d made a cover for it.’

Other examples of fear being turned into a business include wrapping your suitcase in cling wrap to protect it. Think about this. Shrink wrapping your suitcase; that’s putting a cover on a case, which is already a cover. If your suitcase needs to be wrapped in cling film buy a better case.

The cycle helmet is another product of fear. July this year saw all children who ride a bike aged under 14 on the Channel Island of Jersey without a helmet risk a £50 fine for their parents. The debate rages in the UK over the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets but I’ve yet to find any empirical evidence that they work. Maybe you can point me to it? I’ve heard of accidents that might have been different if a cycle helmet was worn but the key word there is ‘might’. There may be lots of reasons to wear a cycle helmet, feeling safer being one of them but there is little real evidence or research to prove you ARE safer wearing a cycle helmet. And where wearing cycle helmets has become compulsory, like Australia, rates of cycling have fallen. The reality seems to be that a bit of polystyrene perched on your head makes you feel safe with out a doubt, but will it make you be safe?

Some media and certainly some newspapers trade on your fears and who is to blame for it. The more fears they create the better and, as we get older, we become more fearful. My own recent experiences of cycling to work and riding water slides on holiday have proved this to me, until I found my inner ‘child’ again.

So the next time some tries to sell you a cover for a phone, wrap your case in cling film or make you wear a protective anything please, at the very least, question it and don’t be afraid to do so.

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