In this era of federal bailouts of troubled industries, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University is calling for a “bailout for at-risk youth.” Addressing the opening session of the National Institute of Justice’s annual crime research conference Monday in northern Virginia, Fox cited his recent research showing that while violent crime has declined overall in the U.S., there was a 43 percent rise in homicides by young black males between 2002 and 2007. Fox dismissed criticism by “Freakonomics” author Steven Levitt that he had not taken demography into account, saying the population of black males 15 to 19 had risen only 15 percent during the same period.
Fox alluded to complacency in some quarters about the crime problem, saying that the U.S. crime picture is characterized by two kinds of communities: the “prosperous and safe” and the “poor and crime-ridden.” The latter gets relatively little attention he said. Fox said his research got much positive response from the black community. Calling for more federally supported crime prevention programs, Fox said that even if crime rates have stabilized nationally, there is no reason to wait and see whether the problem again gets as bad as its peak in the early 1990s. “We can’t tell 8-year-olds, ‘wait until the recession is over,’ ” Fox said. The criminologist pointed out that although homicides involving gangs are down from the 1990s, the level still is higher than that of the 1980s.