Just how crime-ridden is the world of TV cops? So much so that if anything like it happened in real life, you’d probably never want to leave your house.
In the 78 episodes of network crime shows Zap2it analyzed as part of our Crime Report project, 415 crimes were committed. Murder was by far the most common offense, with a whopping 272 instances shown or discussed in those episodes — a rate of almost 3.5 killings per episode.
Even factoring out one “Criminal Minds” episode that centered on a mass killing, the remaining 77 episodes depicted 121 murders (about 1.6 per episode) and 143 other crimes (an additional 1.85 incidents per episode).
In other words, if you watch, say, 10 hours’ worth of crime shows each week, you’re likely to see 16 murders and 34 total crimes.
Here’s how the numbers break down by type of offense.
Some more numbers from the Zap2it study:
Highest body count
“Criminal Minds,” thanks to the aforementioned episode in which the unsub of the week downs a jetliner carrying 151 people. The show also portrayed 13 other murders over the course of the study for a total of 164. Taking away that outlier, “Person of Interest” was the most murder-happy show in the study period with 15 killings. “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans” each had 12.
Lowest body count
“Stalker.” Although the rookie CBS show doesn’t shy away from the creep factor (see below), its cases rarely involve a victim’s death — there were only two murders in the six episodes Zap2it surveyed. “Law & Order: SVU” (four murders over five episodes) and “Blue Bloods” (six over five episodes) also often focus on other crimes, while “Bones” (five in five episodes) typically takes a one-death-per-episode approach.
Most on-screen crime
“Stalker.” The show is often filmed like a horror movie, so there are lots of point-of-view shots of the creep of the week spying on or breaking into the victim’s house. In all, 23 of the 28 incidents (about 82 percent) the show depicted over the six-week study happened on-screen. As a whole, however, Zap2it found that shows were a little more likely to keep crimes off-screen (54 percent of the time).
Most likely victims
White men in their 30s and 40s. About two-thirds of the victims in the shows we watched were men, the vast majority of them Caucasian. People in their 30s and 40s (regardless of race or gender) made up more than half the victim pool.
Most likely criminals
Professionals. The largest number of cases (80) were ones where the perpetrator was either or a stranger or had an unknown relationship to the victim, but hired guns (64) outnumbered all instances where the perp had a pre-existing relationship with the victim.