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The Changing Nature of Crime in America

NCJ Number
Date Published
49 pages
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the evidence of both change and continuity in crime and crime control policy in America over the past half century.
The first part of the chapter considers the work of prior crime commissions, notably the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (the Wickersham Commission), established by President Herbert Hoover in 1929 and the 1967 President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. The discussion notes how the conclusions of these earlier commissions reflected the social contexts in which they were developed. It also considers how these earlier recommendations compare with current efforts to take stock of crime in the United States at the beginning of a new millennium. The second part of the chapter uses the issue of youth violence as a prime example of both continuity and change regarding crime and criminal justice policy. This section of the chapter provides a historical overview of youth groups, collective behavior, and crime to illustrate major ways in which crime and reactions to crime have evolved during the 20th century. The third part of the chapter examines some of the crime-related issues that are likely to become more prominent in the years ahead. Specifically, this section addresses likely trends in violent crimes, gun violence, and urban crime rates; the impacts of increasing numbers of ex-convicts being reintegrated into society and increasing immigration; and the possibility of crime increases linked to right-wing extremism. The concluding section of the chapter provides an overview of the chapters in this volume, which focus on how crime trends have developed within the context of ongoing structural and cultural changes in the United States. In addition, chapters emphasize the growth in the size and complexity of the criminal justice system and the increasing importance of the scientific study of criminology. 152 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000