Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Subject: LCSH

Crime, Violence


Criminology and Criminal Justice


This chapter examines the most important features of the crime decline in the United States during the 1990s-2010s but also takes a broader look at the violence declines of the last three centuries. The author argues that violent and property crime trends might have diverged in the 1990s, with property crimes increasingly happening in the online sphere and thus traditional property crime statistics not being reflective of the full picture. An important distinction is made between ‘contact crimes’ and crimes that do not require a victim and offender to be present in the same physical space. Contrary to the uncertainties engendered by property crime, the declines in violent (‘contact’) crime are rather general, and have been happening not only across all demographic and geographic categories within the United States but also throughout the developed world. An analysis of research literature on crime trends has identified twenty-four different explanations for the crime drop. Each one of them is briefly outlined and examined in terms of conceptual clarity and empirical support. Nine crime decline explanations are highlighted as the most promising ones. The majority of these promising explanations, being relative newcomers in the crime trends literature, have not been subjected to sufficient empirical scrutiny yet, and thus require further research. One potentially fruitful avenue for future studies is to examine the association of the most promising crime decline explanations with improvements in self-control.


This is the author's accepted version of the chapter appearing in the Springer Handbook on Crime and Deviance, 2nd edition. The version of record may be found at



Publisher Citation

Maria Tcherni. The "Great American Crime Decline": Possible Explanations. In Krohn, M.D., Hendrix, N., Penly Hall, G., Lizotte, A.J., eds. Springer Handbook on Crime and Deviance, 2nd edition. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, Pp. 309-335. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-20779-3_16

Available for download on Tuesday, September 28, 2021