Based on the latest statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the national violent crime arrest rate declined 38 percent overall between 1988 and 2018, but the steepest declines were observed among youth ages 10 to 14 (–53%) and 15 to 17 (–54%). The arrest rate for 18-20 year-olds dropped 47 percent while the arrest rates for adults ages 21-24 and 25-49 declined 42 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
In 1993, a peak year for violent crime, police agencies nationwide reported about 13 under-age-18 murder arrests for every 100,000 youth ages 10 to 17. The youth arrest rate for murder dropped 79 percent between 1993 and 2017.
“You lost 50lb. You gained back a couple. You’re not fat,” Jeffrey Butts, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said in 2016, in response to the 2015 uptick. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at your behavior, because the trend is not good.”
Between 1991 and 2006, arrests for drug sales and manufacturing actually dropped 6 percent while arrests for possession climbed 139 percent. The same pattern was observed for arrests involving offenders of different ages, but the growth in drug possession arrests was sharpest among juveniles.
Taken together, arrests for the eight serious offenses included in the FBI Crime Index decreased nearly 50 percent between 1995 and 2010. Arrests for some of the most common, less serious offenses, however, increased substantially from 1985 through 2005, and they remained at higher levels in 2010 when compared with the early 1980s.
This chapter answers two deceptively simple questions, “How much juvenile crime is there today?” and “How does the level of juvenile crime today compare with juvenile crime 20 or 30 years ago?”