In 1997, the U.S. murder rate was the lowest in 30 years

The primary focus of each Crime in the United States report is the estimated number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies. While only a portion of all crimes that occur are reported to law enforcement, those that are provide an assessment of the workloads of the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

The FBI estimates that in 1997, 7,726,000 larceny-thefts, 2,461,000 burglaries, 1,354,000 motor vehicle thefts, 1,022,000 aggravated assaults, 498,000 robberies, 96,000 forcible rapes, and 18,200 murders were reported to law enforcement agencies. One would have to go back to 1971 to find a lower annual number of murder victims in the United States and to 1967 to find a lower murder rate (i.e., murders per 100,000 persons in the population).

With one exception, the traditional UCR program collects no information on the victims of these crimes. The exception is murder.

Eighty-eight percent of murder victims (16,100) were 18 years of age or older. Fewer adults were murdered in the United States in 1997 than in any year within the last 20 years.

In 1997, about 2,100 murder victims were below the age of 18. This level was 27% below that of the peak year of 1993, when 2,900 juveniles were murdered. However, this decline only returned the level to that of 1989. The number of juveniles murdered in the United States in 1997 was still over 300 more than in a typical year in the 1980's.

In 1997, 900 persons under age 13 were murdered. This figure has held relatively constant for the last 20 years. The last year in which fewer young juveniles were murdered was 1987.

In 1997, 68% of all murder victims were killed with a firearm. Adults were more likely to be killed with a firearm (70%) than were juveniles (56%). However, the involvement of a firearm depended greatly on the age of the juvenile victim. While 18% of murdered juveniles under age 13 were killed with a firearm in 1997, 84% of murdered juveniles age 13 or older were killed with a firearm. No other age group in 1997 had a higher proportion of firearm homicides.

While the number of juvenile arrests in 1997 -- 2.8 million -- was only slightly below the 1996 level, juvenile arrests for murder dropped 16%


bullet Between 1993 and 1997, juvenile arrests for murder declined 39%; during the same period, juvenile arrests for a weapons law violation dropped 23%.
bullet In about 15% of all juvenile arrests in 1997, the most serious charge was a drug abuse violation, a liquor law violation, drunkenness, or driving under the influence.
bullet The proportion of juvenile arrests involving younger juveniles (under age 15) was highest for the offense of arson (67%), followed by sex offenses (51%), vandalism (45%), larceny-theft (42%), other (simple) assaults (41%), and runaways (41%).
bullet 12% of juveniles arrested for vandalism were female and 45% were age 14 or younger.

Data source: Crime in the United States 1997 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998), tables 29, 32, 34, 36, and 38. Arrest estimates were developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice.

Blue Line
Juvenile Arrests 1997 Juvenile Justice Bulletin   ·  December 1998