Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $720,000)
This award is for a 36-month project. The purpose of this project is to create a multidisciplinary roundtable of 14 experts to study and discuss possible factors responsible for the recent 20-year drop in both violent and property crime rates. Unlike other NAS mechanisms such as committees and panel studies, a roundtable provides a neutral venue for leading researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers to identify issues of mutual concern and exchange ideas. Roundtable participants for this project will include scholars who study crime trends and their social impact, as well as practitioners and policy-makers, including government officials who are in policy-making positions. During the project period, the roundtable will meet six times, with all meetings open to the public. Webcasts or webinars of these meetings will be provided for interested individuals unable to attend in person.
Member areas of expertise would include criminology, statistics, sociology, psychology, economics, law enforcement, criminal law, and criminal justice policy. The roundtable would delineate the features of the crime drop occurring during the past two decades; its major activities would focus on basic conceptual and theoretical issues that can help explain the changes in crime rates over time. Participants would identify and examine the most probable contributing factors and the empirical support available for each of them. Subsequently, members would develop plausible explanatory theories and/or models, and discuss possible empirical tests of each. The roundtable's activities would be designed to help criminal justice researchers, practitioners and policy-makers untangle competing explanations for the crime rate decline, plan for future changes, and develop effective prevention and enforcement efforts to continue the current low rate or - ideally - drive it even lower. Members would also discuss strategies for creating a long-term research agenda aimed at strengthening the criminal justice knowledge base.