This is the eighth, and final, in a series of posts derived from Ted Gest's article Crime and Justice Trends in America: How We Got Here; Where We Go Next on cutting edge evidence-based crime fighting practices posted at The Crime Report.
Youth Violence--Franklin E. Zimring, University of California at Berkeley.
Zimring offered a "cautionary tale" about projecting juvenile crime rates. Based on rises in reported youth crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scholars like John DiIulio and James Alan Fox projected that if current trends continued, the number of arrests for juvenile homicide might reach 5,000 or more--creating by 2005 what DiIulio termed a generation of "superpredators."
This proved to be a "catastrophic error." Zimring said.
The actual number of juvenile homicide arrests turned out to be 1,073. The drop in juvenile crime numbers in the 1990s prompted John Donohue and Steven Levitt to propose what Zimring termed a misguided theory that the growth in abortions after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling contributed to a decrease in juvenile offending later.
The mistaken projections about juvenile crime growth encouraged ineffective policy changes such as states' enacting laws providing for trying more juvenile defendants as adults, Zimring said.
What did not happen was a building boom in juvenile detention facilities because policymakers learned that crime was actually decreasing before they could vote for new institutions.
Zimring expects juvenile homicide rates between now and 2025 to track adult homicide rates.