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Why the Drop in Crime?

NCJ Number
Crime & Justice International Volume: 16 Issue: 38 Dated: March 2000 Pages: 11-29
Date Published
March 2000
4 pages

This article discusses possible reasons for the drop in United States crime rates in the 1990s.


There are five recognized potential explanations for the drop in U.S. crime rates during the 1990s: (1) Social-Demographic Trends (fewer 14 to 25-year-olds, the crime-prone age bracket; more settled, stable populations); (2) Economic Conditions (Less economic stress may influence the rate of both violent and property crime); (3) Drug-Use Prevalence (Drug supply, drug-use prevalence and crime all interact); (4) Incarceration Rates (Increased incapacitation rates appear, at least on the surface, to be one of the best explanations for decreased street crime); and (5) Police Programs. The article suggests that the economy, incarceration rates and police programs have had the greatest effect on crime, with social-demographic trends and drug use prevalence having had no apparent influence. The article discusses measurement of the extent of crime in the Uniform Crime Reports and the National Crime Victimization Survey and reviews both sources’ limitations when attempting to assess changes in crime rates over time. References

Date Published: March 1, 2000