On Nov. 18, 1993, a top state criminologist warned Virginia lawmakers that a new kind of violence was tugging at the commonwealth’s social fabric, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Around the year 2004, 2005, we’re going to have a great crime wave unprecedented in Virginia’s history,” Richard P. Kern said. In 1995, James Alan Fox, one of the mostly widely quoted criminologists in the country, told USA Today: “‘There is a tremendous crime wave coming in the next 10 years,’ fueled not by old, hardened criminals, but by a group he calls ‘the young and the ruthless.'”
It is 2005, but rather than a crime wave of epic proportion, Virginia and the rest of the country enjoy some of the lowest crime rates since the 1970s. Not only were the prognosticators wrong about a crime wave, but they also failed to predict an epic drop in crime. What happened? It depends on whom you ask. The answer, in part, assert Fox, Kern and others, is that policymakers heeded the warnings and took actions that held crime down. Others question such claims. Critics say some of the crime-wave predictions and “fear mongering” of the mid-1990s was based on bad information and bad reasoning influenced by politics and an uncritical media.