Forecasting US Crime Rates and the Impact of Reductions in Imprisonment: 1960-2025

By James Austin and Richard Rosenfeld
September 2023

In the latest of a series of HFG reports forecasting crime trends at the US national level and for selective states and (forthcoming) cities, James Austin and Richard Rosenfeld again created statistical models that retroactively “predicted” property and violent crime rates for past years with great accuracy and then used these models to forecast crime trends in the near future. This report concerns national trends, updating the authors’ national-level HFG report released in 2020, before the social and economic disruptions of the pandemic and civil unrest over police violence interrupted a 25-year declining or flat trend in violent crime.

Austin and Rosenfeld forecast very modest increases in violent crime and then a flattening trend by 2025 as well as a continuation of the longstanding decline in property crime. They also use their forecasting models to project the effect of augmenting the nation’s declining rate of imprisonment by an additional 20%. Such a policy decision, they conclude, would not lead to significantly higher crime rates. 

Read the full report [PDF].

Projecting Florida Crime Rates and the Impact of Prison Population Reductions

By James Austin, Richard Rosenfeld and Todd Clear
January 2021

Florida has benefited from the national drop in crime that began in the early 1990s. Its growth in incarceration also paralleled the steady national imprisonment rise of the last forty-five years. Florida’s rate peaked around 2010 and has been declining ever since. Policy makers would benefit from defensible projections of future trends in crime, and especially from estimates of the effect that further reductions in the number of people in jail and prison might have on those trends. The authors of this study developed quantitative models—explained here in non-technical language—of the effects of various demographic and economic factors, as well as the imprisonment rate, on Florida’s past crime rates. They then used these models to project crime trends into the 2020s, both with and without the assumption of a substantial reduction in imprisonment. 

At the Crossroads: Behind the Rise in Gun Violence in New York and Other American Cities

By Greg Berman
March 2022

HFG’s ‘At the Crossroads’ series concludes with the publication of  “Behind the Rise in Gun Violence in New York and Other American Cities,” a compilation of the twelve interviews conducted by Harry Frank Guggenheim Distinguished Fellow of Practice Greg Berman with an essay illuminating common themes and practical approaches to ending such violence.

Policing Protests: Lessons from The Occupy Movement, Ferguson and Beyond

By Edward Maguire and Megan Oakley
January 2020

Police responses to recent street protest events in Ferguson, Charlottesville, and Hong Kong are merely the best known examples of incidents in which police respond to peaceful gatherings as if they were riots or fail to prevent a violent development at a stage where it could have been avoided. Policing Protests–Lessons from the Occupy Movement, Ferguson & Beyond: A Guide for Police is a clear and authoritative summary of research on policing practices that either facilitate peaceful protests and other public order events or violate basic rights, engender resentment and in some cases injury among peaceful protesters, and often result in lawsuits costing cities substantial settlements. Written by respected policing scholars Edward Maguire and Megan Oakley, it has been distributed to nearly 1,000 police agencies in the U.S. and abroad. HFG is pleased to make it available for download.

Explaining the Past and Projecting Future Crime Rates

By James Austin, Todd Clear, and Richard Rosenfeld
September 2020

The American public, like citizens elsewhere, care about current and future levels of crime and the factors that drive them. But policymakers, who can greatly influence such factors, often lack knowledge from careful studies on the causes and control of crime to guide their decisions. HFG commissioned three leading criminologists to address this deficit by developing a predictive model of national violent and property crime rates.

The researchers identified a small set of demographic, economic, and criminal-justice variables whose changes over nearly four decades closely track trends in crime. As in previous research, they found that higher incarceration is associated with lower crime—but only to a limited degree. And, more important, they found that other factors, such as manufacturing employment or the population’s proportion of young people, combine to have a greater influence on crime than does incarceration.

In addition to accurately tracking past crime rates, this new model can also be used for “what-if” analyses in which predictive variables are changed to obtain estimates of future crime rates. Such exercises show that, using reasonable assumptions about future levels of those variables, the United States can substantially lower its imprisonment rate without incurring an increase in crime.

Explaining the Past and Projecting Future Crime Rates provides a readable and comprehensive account of the findings and implications of this HFG study, an important resource for practitioners, policymakers, and scholars alike.

Projecting Illinois Crime Rates and the Impact of Further Prison Population Reductions

By James Austin, Todd Clear, and Richard Rosenfeld
November 2020

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