Violent Juvenile Crime: The Number of Violent Juvenile Offenders Declines

By Snyder, Howard N. | Corrections Today, April 1999 | Go to article overview

Violent Juvenile Crime: The Number of Violent Juvenile Offenders Declines


Snyder, Howard N., Corrections Today


Using data reported annually by local law enforcement agencies across the country, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program prepares its annual Crime in the United States report. This 400-plus page reference document monitors the nature and extent of juvenile crime that comes to the attention of the justice system. Each year, a bulletin is published by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that summarizes the information on juveniles presented in an FBI report. This article is based extensively on the OJJDP publication, Juvenile Arrests 1997.

Trends In Juvenile Violent Crime

According to the FBi, law enforcement agencies in the United States made an estimated 2.8 million arrests of juveniles (i.e., persons under age 18) in 1997 for all offenses. Of these juvenile arrests, 123,000 were for murder, forcible rape, robbery or aggravated assault. These four offenses - the Violent Crime Index offenses - are the crimes used by the FBI to monitor levels and changes in violent crime arrests over the years.

In 1997, one of every six violent crime arrests (17 percent) involved a juvenile. Juveniles were involved in 30 percent of all robbery arrests; 17 percent of all forcible rape arrests; 14 percent of all aggravated assault arrests; and 14 percent of all murder arrests. In 1997, nearly 95 percent of all persons arrested were between the ages of 10 and 49. Juveniles (those ages 10 to 17) were 19 percent of this segment of the population. Using this as a measuring stick, juveniles were overrepresented in robbery arrests and underrepresented in murder arrests.

After more than a decade of relative stability, juvenile violent crime arrests began to increase in the late 1980s, reaching a peak in 1994. In 1997, for the third year in a row, the total number of juvenile arrests; for Violent Crime Index offenses declined. Even with these declines (3 percent in 1995, 6 percent in 1996 and 4 percent in 1997), the number of juvenile Violent Crime Index arrests in 1997 was 49 percent above the 1988 level. In comparison, the number of adult arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses in 1997 was 19 percent greater than in 1988.

* Murder. In 1997, juveniles were responsible for 8 percent of all murders cleared by law enforcement. The juvenile arrest rate for murder more than doubled in the six-year period between 1987 and 1993. But the substantial declines from 1994 through 1997 have erased most of this increase. The juvenile arrest rate in 1997 for murder was just 20 percent above the 1987 rate.

* Weapons. Juvenile arrests for weapon law violations followed a similar pattern to murder arrests, doubling between 1987 and 1993, reflecting the strong link between juvenile homicides and firearms. It is interesting to note that the juvenile murder arrest rate declined more than the weapons arrest rate between 1993 and 1997 (43 percent vs. 24 percent), reflecting possibly the preventive effect weapon programs can have on juvenile violence.

* Forcible Rape. in 1997, juveniles were involved in 11 percent of all forcible rapes cleared by law enforcement. Unlike any other offense in the Violent Crime Index, the juvenile arrest rate for forcible rape changed little during the 15-year period from 1983 through 1997. The 1997 arrest rate was the lowest in any year since 1983 and 23 percent below the peak year of 1991.

* Robbery. In 1997, juveniles were involved in 17 percent of all robberies cleared by law enforcement. Juvenile robbery arrests declined 30 percent from 1980 through 1988. Between 1988 and 1994, the rate increased, with the 1994 rate 19 percent above the 1980 rate. But the substantial declines in juvenile arrests for robbery in 1996 and 1997 made the 1997 rate the lowest of any year in the 1990s and just 13 percent above the lowest level in the prior two decades.

* Aggravated Assault. In 1997, juveniles were involved in 12 percent of all aggravated assaults cleared by law enforcement. …

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