Economist Steven Levitt has criticized a new study that points to a sharp rise in homicides by black teens in recent years, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Study co-author criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University blamed gang activity and lax gun laws as some of the main reasons. Levitt, the University of Chicago economist who criticized Fox in the 2005 best seller “Freakonomics,” accuses Fox of fearmongering. He said Fox is choosing not to emphasize the bigger picture — that since the early 1990s, homicides have fallen sharply in every age group, including black teens.
Fox’s own statistics say there were twice as many black teenage killers in 1990 as in 2007. “Yes, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in 1990, but it is worse than it was in 2000, so why don’t we act now?” Fox said. Fox calls for “restoring federal funds for crime prevention and crime control.” In his blog, Levitt wrote: “While I suspect that directing federal money toward crime control would be a better use of funds than continued bailouts, I would argue that it is time to experiment with something more radical that would actually save the government an enormous amount of money: ending the war on drugs.” Fox’s study, posted at www.jfox.neu.edu, says that in the past eight years in Chicago, homicides by white offenders ages 14 to 24 fell 47 percent while homicides by black offenders in the same age group fell 30 percent.