Violent crime arrests involving under-18 youth dropped considerably since 2008. The violent youth arrest rate peaked in 1994, before falling through 2004. Violent arrests began to grow after 2004, however, reaching a rate of nearly 300 per 100,000 10-17 year-olds between 2006 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2011, the violent youth arrest rate fell sharply once again, plunging from approximately 300 to 200 arrests per 100,000 youth. In 2011, the violent crime arrest rate was 30 percent lower than it had been just three years earlier in 2008.
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.
Juvenile Arrest Rates: 1980-2009. Presented to the 2010 Educational Conference, Missouri Juvenile Justice Association. October 2010. Lake of the Ozarks, MO. (Office 2003 version. Larger file.)
The diverse mix of policies and practices introduced in recent years raises important questions about the posture of juvenile justice today. Most scholars agree that decades of “get-tough” reforms diminished the influence of the juvenile court. Many contend that these changes rendered the criminal (adult) and juvenile justice systems largely indistinguishable. Others question these claims and suggest that rehabilitation remains a critical goal for juvenile justice professionals.
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?”