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Such analyses may be useful exercises with respect to explaining past experiences in the ups and downs of observed crime or the projection of recent trends in order to anticipate future problems and needs for levels of resources in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Yet even a casual review of the various projections of crime rates or offenses that have been made over the years suggests that they contain large amounts of uncertainty. That is, the mere fact that a projection indicates that, say, juvenile homicide offenders may increase (or decrease) by some specific percentage over the next 5 or 10 years does not mean that the rates will, in fact, exhibit such an increase (or decrease).
The purposes of this paper are twofold. First, we review a number of extant demographic projections of crime rates and offenses that have been made for the United States over the past few decades, with a special focus on projections of juvenile crime rates and offenses. We commence in the next section with a brief summary of demographic analyses of the crime wave in the 1960s based on the coming of age of the baby boomers. This is followed by a review of projections of downturns in crime rates in the 1980s based on the smaller “baby bust” birth cohorts. More recently, following the rise in delinquent and criminal offenses by adolescents and teenagers in the 1985-1993 period, criminologists have produced some scary projections, which we next describe, of increasing numbers of violent criminal offenses expected in the period 1995-2005, as the “echoboomers” enter their teenage years.
It will be seen that one characteristic of most extant projections of juvenile and criminal offenses is that, until recently, they have produced only expected or average values of future levels of crime rates or offenses. But temporal variability of age-specific crime rates has been a key characteristic of offending patterns, especially for juveniles, in recent years. Yet most projections of criminal and juvenile offending rates and numbers of offenses disregard the uncertainty associated with such projections. To emphasize the significance of the uncertainty of projections of criminal and juvenile offenses, a second objective of the paper is to describe some exercises in the construction of plausible national projections of expected numbers of male juvenile homicide offenders—as well as upper and lower bounds for the expected numbers—for each year from 1998 to 2007. A final section contains a statement of the major conclusions from our review and analyses.
THE BABY BOOMERS COME OF AGE IN THE 1960s AND 1970s
One of the first attempts to examine the impact of a changing demographic age composition of the population on numbers of criminal offenses reported to the police was made during the 1960s—when the