Juvenile Arrests for Violent Crimes Reached a Historic Low in 2018

Posted August 10, 2020, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young person

Youth arrests are gen­er­al­ly declin­ing, con­tin­u­ing a decades-long trend, accord­ing to new­ly released juve­nile crime data from the fed­er­al Office of Juve­nile Jus­tice and Delin­quen­cy Pre­ven­tion and the Nation­al Insti­tute of Jus­tice. The fed­er­al sta­tis­tics update data through 2018 and reveal long-term shifts in arrests of youth under age 18 based on offense, gen­der and race.

Crime has plum­met­ed nation­al­ly. Yet in the Unit­ed States, the odds remain high that a young per­son charged with a crime will be locked up, espe­cial­ly African Amer­i­can, Amer­i­can Indi­an and Lati­no males,” says Nate Balis, direc­tor of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juve­nile Jus­tice Strat­e­gy Group.

The lat­est trends in arrests involv­ing peo­ple younger than 18

To prop­er­ly inter­pret the data, note that arrest sta­tis­tics mea­sure entry into the jus­tice sys­tem. They do not indi­cate the num­ber of indi­vid­ual arrests nor the num­ber of crimes com­mit­ted. A full expla­na­tion of the data is avail­able from the Depart­ment of Justice.

  • In 2018, U.S. law enforce­ment agen­cies made an esti­mat­ed 728,280 arrests of peo­ple younger than age 18, which is the low­est num­ber in near­ly four decades — and 73% below its 1996 peak of 2.7 mil­lion. In com­par­i­son, arrests of adults fell 22% dur­ing the same period.
  • In 2018, youth arrests for vio­lent crimes (aggra­vat­ed assault, rob­bery and mur­der) reached the low­est point since at least 1980. Arrests for aggra­vat­ed assault account­ed for 61% of all youth arrests for vio­lent crime in 2018. To main­tain accu­rate com­par­isons, dif­fer­ences in the def­i­n­i­tion of rape exclude it from the mea­sure of vio­lent crimes.
  • Youth arrest rates for bur­glary, theft and arson reached his­toric lows in 2018. Arson is the crim­i­nal act with the largest pro­por­tion of youth arrests. In 2018, youths were arrest­ed in 20% of all arson arrests, and 58% of these arrests involved youths younger than 15.
  • Youth arrest rates for weapons and van­dal­ism reached new lows in 2018.
  • Females account­ed for 30% of youth arrests in 2018. Although males made up the major­i­ty of youth arrests over­all, the female share was more than a third for cer­tain offens­es, includ­ing lar­ce­ny-theft (39%), liquor law vio­la­tions (42%), sim­ple assault (37%) and dis­or­der­ly con­duct (36%).
  • Youth arrests dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly involved Black youth. While Black youth rep­re­sent­ed 16% of the youth pop­u­la­tion ages 10 to 17 in 2018, they were involved in 50% of arrests for vio­lent crimes and 42% of arrests for bur­glary, lar­ce­ny-theft, motor vehi­cle theft and arson, which col­lec­tive­ly make up the prop­er­ty crime index.
  • In 2018, Black youth were sev­en times more like­ly to be arrest­ed for mur­der than white youth. Black youth were nine times more like­ly to be arrest­ed for rob­bery com­pared to white youth.
  • The over­all arrest rate for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 reached its low­est lev­el since at least 1980.

All young peo­ple deserve the oppor­tu­ni­ty to real­ize their poten­tial, even those who have vio­lat­ed the law in seri­ous and harm­ful ways,” Balis says.

Learn how JDAI® sites are safe­ly reduc­ing rates of youth confinement

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