OJJDP’s latest data on youth arrests for violent crimes show a 78-percent decline since the peak year, 1994, countering claims of a youth-led violent crime wave in the United States.
The estimated number of youth arrests for violent crime—including murder, robbery, and aggravated assault—reached a new low in 2020, according to Trends in Youth Arrests for Violent Crimes, a fact sheet released in August by the National Institute of Justice and OJJDP. The publication is based on analyses of data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
In 2020, youth age 17 and younger accounted for just 7 percent of all arrests for violent crimes, down from 14 percent in 2010. That 10-year decline in youth arrests far exceeds the decline in adult arrests for violent crimes over the same period: 56 percent versus 6 percent.
“The analysis of arrest statistics helps inform our understanding of the entry of young people into the justice system,” said National Institute of Justice Director Nancy La Vigne. “The continuing decline in youth arrests overall, and for violent offenses in particular, gives us important information about the volume and nature of arrests that should be considered when developing strategies to support youth and reduce their justice involvement.”
Youth arrests overall fell 38 percent between 2019 and 2020. Of the 434,200 overall arrests in 2020, fewer than 10 percent were for a violent crime, the fact sheet reports; one-fourth of 1 percent was for murder.
“These data reflect an encouraging trend—one that has in fact been developing over the last three decades—and offer a welcome counternarrative to claims that youth crime is on the rise,” said OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan. “They also give us reason to be optimistic about the course of juvenile justice reform, particularly efforts in many jurisdictions to replace harsh punishments with personal development opportunities and to design programs that build support into accountability.”