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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Committee on Law and Justice
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Understanding Crime Trends: A Workshop 


Project Scope

An ad hoc committee will conduct a workshop-based study on understanding crime trends. This study will explore key substantive and methodological issues underlying what influences year-to-year and long term fluctuations in crime trends.


The agenda for the workshop will be developed to:


(1) address basic conceptual issues associated with explaining changes in crime rates over time;
(2) consider exemplary empirical treatments of crime trends; and
(3) provide a foundation for a more comprehensive future study on understanding crime trends.


The workshop will feature invited presentations and discussions on the following topics:


1) U. S. national trends since 1980, disaggregated by race, age, and sex; trend comparisons across Uniform Crime Reports and National Crime Victim Survey data; and identification of potentially important explanatory factors'

2) A review of the specific substantive, methodological, and data issues pertaining to the study of neighborhood-level crime trends

3) Model identification issues in the analysis of crime trends

4) A critical overview of models for crime forecasting.

The committee will commission papers to analyze trends for four crime types and present exemplary empirical treatments for understanding and predicting crime trends.


Drawing on the workshop presentations and discussions and the commissioned papers, the committee will prepare a report on conceptual and empirical approaches to understanding crime trends. The report will outline a preliminary research agenda and plan.

National Institute of Justice


Committee Membership
RICHARD ROSENFELD (Co-chair),Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri, St. Louis

ARTHUR S. GOLDBERGER (Co-chair),Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

ALFRED BLUMSTEIN,John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, Carnegie Mellon University

PHILLIP J. COOK,Stanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University

STEVEN N. DURLAUF,Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

KAREN HEIMER,Department of Sociology and Public Policy Center, University of Iowa

JANET L. LAURITSEN,Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri, St. Louis

MICHAEL G. MAXFIELD,School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University


CAROL PETRIE, Study Director

LINDA DePUGH, Administrative Assistant

Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report (2008)

 Crime Trends report cover




Changes over time in the levels and patterns of crime have significant consequences that affect not only the criminal justice system but also other critical policy sectors. Yet compared with such areas as health status, housing, and employment, the nation lacks timely information and comprehensive research on crime trends.
Descriptive information and explanatory research on crime trends across the nation that are not only accurate, but also timely, are pressing needs in the nation's crime-control efforts.

In April 2007, the National Research Council held a two-day workshop to address key substantive and methodological issues underlying the study of crime trends and to lay the groundwork for a proposed multiyear NRC panel study of these issues. Six papers were commissioned from leading researchers and discussed at the workshop by experts in sociology, criminology, law, economics, and statistics. The authors revised their papers based on the discussants' comments, and the papers were then reviewed again externally. The six final workshop papers are the basis of this volume, which represents some of the most serious thinking and research on crime trends currently available.



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