Violent teen crime expected to soar in next few years Prosecutors, experts see 'time bomb' in population


Despite recent reports that crime is decreasing, violent crime in the United States is a "ticking time bomb" that will explode in the next few years as the number of teen-agers soars, an organization of prosecutors and law-enforcement experts said in report issued yesterday.

The group, the Council on Crime in America, painted a bleak portrait of the criminal justice system, maintaining that it remained a "revolving door" that allowed large numbers of violent felons to go free and commit more crime.

About a third of all violent crimes in the United States are committed by people who, though technically "under supervision," are on probation, parole or pretrial release, the report said.

The council suggested that state governments needed to "reinvent probation and parole" by devoting far more resources to them and finding ways that are more restrictive to monitor felons under supervision. According to the report, state governments currently spend only about $200 a year per probationer, compared with $25,000 per prison inmate.

The council is a nonpartisan group headed by William Bennett, who served the Reagan administration as director of national drug control policy and then as education secretary, and Griffin Bell, the attorney general in the Carter administration.

Mr. Bennett spoke at a news conference in Washington, where the report was issued yesterday. He was joined by three other members of the council: Lynn Abraham, the district attorney in Philadelphia; Gale Norton, the attorney general of Colorado; and Stephen Goldsmith, the mayor of Indianapolis.

The report was compiled by John DiIulio Jr., a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

Mr. DiIulio referred to recent reports from New York, Houston and a number of other large cities that their crime rates have dropped in the last few years. He said that this was, at least in part, a result of new, more aggressive tactics by the police. But he cautioned that crime remained "at a historically high level."

Moreover, drawing on the work of James Alan Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, Mr. DiIulio said that given demographic trends, he was concerned that "we are in the lull before the crime storm."

Between now and the year 2005, the number of 14-to-17-year-old males will increase by 23 percent. This coming jump in the youthful population is worrisome, Mr. DiIulio said, because criminologists have found that while adults are committing less violent crime, the rate of violent crime among teen-agers has skyrocketed.

As a result, the report recommended that governments attach ** much more importance to preventing youths who are at particular risk of becoming criminals from turning into juvenile delinquents.

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