How to Prevent Crime

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Crime statistics compiled by the FBI in its yearly crime index show what many in the law enforcement field consider to be an encouraging trend. From 1990 to 1995, the crime rate declined steadily in every category: murders, rapes, assaults, robberies, burglaries, and thefts. Sociologists and criminologists debate the explanation for this downward turn in crime rates; improved economic conditions and tougher criminal justice measures are two of the theories offered. Other experts, however, dispute whether the decline is significant, pointing out that crime rates in many categories are still higher than in the mid- 1980s. These scholars also deny that the trend of decreasing crime rates will continue. James Alan Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University in Boston, is among those who believe that the recent drop in crime rates is merely the lull before an approaching crime storm. The reason for the current decrease in crime, he maintains, is the demographic dip in the number of teenage and young adult males (ages fourteen to twenty-five), the part of the population most likely to commit crimes. In addition, he points out that even as the overall rate has decreased, the crime rate among the present population of teenaged males has grown, and many of their crimes are more violent and vicious in nature than those committed by young males of preceding generations. As the numbers of teenaged males increase in the near future, he predicts, the crime rate will naturally return to previous levels and will possibly climb even higher. Expanding upon Fox’s argument, Princeton University professor John J. Di- Iulio Jr. argues that it is more than simply the number of boys approaching their crime-prone teen years that portends an impending explosion in the crime rate. In his opinion, it is the moral poverty in which the next generation of adolescents is being raised that bodes ill for the nation’s crime rates. Moral poverty, according to DiIulio,...
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