Frank Zimring presented research February 16 showing that contrary to predictions of a surge in violence at the time, there was a dramatic drop in U.S. crime rates during the 1990s. Zimring discussed the findings contained in his new book The Great American Crime Decline (Oxford University Press 2007) during a symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco. The AAAS is the world’s largest general federation of scientists and publisher of the journal Science.
Zimring also appeared on National Public Radio’s Science Friday program along with other researchers from the conference in a discussion on how social scientists look at crime and what kinds of violence decreased during the 1990s.
“Everything declined everywhere,” Zimring told NPR host Ira Flatow during the live San Francisco broadcast. “The thing that was huge about this change was its generality.”
Zimring’s research examines the causes for the unexpected 40 percent decrease in the rate of major crimes and addresses its significance and lessons for the future. While no single factor emerges as a cause for the drop in crime rates, Zimring acknowledged modest increases in policing, a diminishing demand for crack cocaine and a more robust economy as possible reasons for the decline.
A member of Boalt’s faculty since 1985 and chair of the law school’s Criminal Justice Research Program, Zimring is considered one of the nation’s leading criminologists. He is the William G. Simon Professor of Law and the first recipient of the Werner and Mimi Wolfen Research Professorship.