The Young and Arrest-Less

Youth violence has fallen sharply
By Gene Koretz
BusinessWeek
January 29, 2001 Issue

Despite some notorious incidents of school violence in recent years, it is the young who are mainly responsible for the nationwide decline in violent crime since the mid-1990s. An analysis of FBI data by Jeffrey A. Butts of the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, highlights the trend.

bwgraphicFrom 1985 to 1995, notes Butts, violent-crime arrests (for murder, rape, assault, and robbery) in the U.S. rose by 298,670, with youths under 25 accounting for 38% of the increase. In the four years from 1995 to 1999, such arrests declined by 151,460, with that same age group accounting for 51% of the drop. The declines have been especially sharp among those under 18.

Social scientists attribute much of the drop in youth crime to the economic boom, which raised wages and lowered joblessness among the young and reduced child poverty and family stress. Increased community policing, a higher arrest rate for less serious offenses such as drunk driving, and a higher incarceration rate may also have acted as deterrents, but one often cited factor–demographic trends–played no part: The youth population has actually been growing through the past decade.