Retro Report: When America Feared Juvenile Superpredators

Monday, April 07, 2014

A man is brought to jail by a New York City Police Officer on July 10, 2012 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

This week, the Retro Report documentary team looks back at a perceived threat that dominated the late 90s.

The story starts in 1994, when the murder of Robert Sandifer, an 11-year-old gang member who went by the name "Yummy," set off a wave of panic about the next generation of juvenile criminals. Soon after his death, Sandifer's picture appeared on a September 1994 cover of TIME magazine. The crime had captivated the nation.

What made Sandifer's death so terrifying was that his killers weren't much older than he was, and his death seemed to epitomize a growing problem of violent crime among the country's youth. In 1995, writing in The Weekly Standard, political scientist John DiIulio coined the term "superpredator" to refer to this rising generation of dangerous youths—a generation DiIulio warned would unleash chaos on America.

Those predictions, however, did not come true. Bonnie Bertram, Retro Report Producer looks at the legacy of the idea of a juvenile "superpredator." 

Check out a video of Retro Report's findings below.


Bonnie Bertram

Produced by:

Mythili Rao and Schuyler Swenson


T.J. Raphael

Comments [3]

Anne Furman

The strong correlation between the reduction inatmospheric lead and reduced crime is discussed in this accessible article in Mother Jones. There are many other articles on the harmful effects of lead which has been known for millennia.
Current research indicates that lead effects the part of the human brain which controls decision making, impulsivity, and intelligence.

Aug. 28 2014 07:55 AM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

Conclusions arrived at by the sociological sciences and human psychology are interesting and compelling. They draw media attention. They are also among the most fleetingly accepted, most often overturned and most frequently discarded in the sciences. These sciences' object of study is also the most complex thing that exists and the least well understood.

This was another good segment from Retro Report.

Apr. 07 2014 03:51 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I'd be interested to know the statistics on the current world of superpredators. Did they just become bullies?

Apr. 07 2014 11:53 AM

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