Youth Arrest Rate for Violent Crimes Drops to 32-Year Low

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Fewer young people than ever are being arrested for violent crimes, according to new national arrest estimates based on data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Calculated by the Research Consortium of John Jay College, the estimate shows that American law enforcement made just more than 60,000 violent crime arrests of youth under age 18 in 2012—a decline of 10% compared to 2011, and an overall drop of 36% since 2003. Over the same decade, violent crime arrests involving adults fell 9%.


The FBI measures violent crime using four offenses: murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Between 2003 and 2012, youth arrests for murder fell 37%, forcible rape arrests went down 36%, robbery arrests slipped by 20%, and aggravated assault arrests plummeted by nearly 43%.


Expressing the data in terms of population reveals the sharpness of the decline. In 1994, there were about 500 violent youth crime arrests for every 100,000 10-17-year-old Americans. By 2008, that number had declined 40% to about 300 per 100,000, and by 2012, the rate plunged another 30% to fewer than 190 per 100,000 juveniles. Compared with trends since 1980, the arrest rate for violent youth crime hit a new low every year from 2009 through 2012.


Two other points regarding race and gender jump out from the data. First, youth crime is committed disproportionately by males, whose arrest rate was more than 4 times the female rate, meaning that males commit more than 80% of the violent youth crimes despite being about 50% of the population.


Second, the rate of such arrests peaked in the mid-1990s for all racial groups, declining through 2010 by substantial rates for youths of Asian (75%), American Indian (65%), white (54%) and black (54%) descent. However, the arrest rate in 2010 for black juveniles was 5 times the rate for white youth, 6 times the rate for American Indians, and nearly 15 times the rate for Asians. In an age when anyone with an Internet connection can access many websites offering access to vast databases of arrest information, a mere arrest can follow a person forever, causing serious damage.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Violent Youth Crime in U.S. Falls to New 32-Year Low (by Jeffrey A. Butts, John Jay College Research Consortium) 

Black Youths in Oakland Study Arrested More Often, but Often Not Charged (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

One Third of Young Americans Arrested by Age 23…Is Drug Crackdown to Blame? (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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