The juvenile share of the crime problem decreased in 1997

The relative responsibility of juveniles for the U.S. crime problem is hard to determine. Studying the proportion of crimes that are cleared by the arrest of juveniles gives one estimate of the juvenile responsibility for crime.

The clearance data in the Crime in the United States series show that the proportion of violent crimes attributed to juveniles has declined in recent years. Juvenile involvement in violent crime grew from 9% or 10% in the early-to-mid-1980's to 14% in 1994. Since 1994, the proportion of violent crimes cleared by juvenile arrest has declined, reaching 12% in 1997.

The proportion of murders cleared by juvenile arrests in 1997 (8%) was at its lowest level since 1991, but still above the 5% level of the mid-1980's. The juvenile proportion of cleared forcible rapes peaked in 1995 (15%) and then fell, with the 1997 rate (12%) the lowest in the decade. The juvenile proportion of robbery clearances in 1997 (17%) was below its peak in 1995 (20%), but still far above the levels of the early 1980's (12%). Similarly, the juvenile proportion of aggravated assault clearances in 1997 (12%) was below its peak in 1994 (13%), but still above the levels of the early 1980's (9%). The proportion of Property Crime Index offenses cleared by juvenile arrest in 1997 (23%) was equal to the average level between 1980 and 1996.

Juveniles were involved in about 1 in 5 arrests made by law enforcement agencies in 1997, 1 in 6 arrests for a violent crime, and 1 in 3 arrests for a property offense


Note: Running away from home and curfew and loitering violations are not presented in this figure because, by definition, only juveniles can be arrested for these offenses.

Data source: Crime in the United States 1997 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), table 38.

Over the last 25 years, changes in the number of juvenile arrests for violent crime have been unrelated to changes in the size of the juvenile population

bullet From 1987 to 1994, while the juvenile population increased 7%, juvenile arrests for violent crime increased 79%. Since 1994, juvenile arrests have dropped 18%, while the juvenile population has increased 4%.

Data source: Arrest estimates were developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice based on arrest data from the FBI; population data is from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. [See data source note 1 for detail.]

Blue Line
Juvenile Arrests 1997 Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  December 1998