National Juvenile Crime Statistics Show Major Declines

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Juvenile arrests, victimizations, prosecutions as adults, and incarceration (placement) numbers have declined considerably.


I have an inquiry regarding the victimizations of juveniles and the characteristics of the juvenile justice system. This article is an attempt to summarize the data.

What many don’t realize is that the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is a focus on the protection of the child as an overriding priority.

“Youth under the age of 18 who are accused of committing a delinquent or criminal act are typically processed through a juvenile justice system. While similar to that of the adult criminal justice system in many ways–processes include arrest, detainment, petitions, hearings, adjudications, dispositions, placement, probation, and reentry–the juvenile justice process operates according to the premise that youth are fundamentally different from adults, both in terms of level of responsibility and potential for rehabilitation. The primary goals of the juvenile justice system, in addition to maintaining public safety, are skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, addressing treatment needs, and successful reintegration of youth into the community,” Youth.Gov.

It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system, there are decades of court rulings upholding the provision that the system is fundamentally different from adult justice and that everything possible for the well being of the “child” should be employed.

Context-Violent Crime

Per the data below, readers will notice considerable decreases in many categories. This conflicts somewhat with crime data since 2015.

Critics insist that violent crime is down per historical trends before 2015. Detractors say that the increase in violence in 2020 and 2021 is overblown. Some insist that per FBI data (the 41 percent of violent crimes reported) violence has decreased substantially.

Thus we have a fundamental question, which holds more importance, a 28 percent increase in all violent crime (including simple assaults) per the National Crime Survey (2015-2018), and the presumption that this applies to 2019, a tripling of violent crime per Gallup, endless media reports of vastly increasing urban violence in 2020 after the lockdowns, a rise in homicides and aggravated assaults in 2019 and 2020 per the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a considerable and recent rise in homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies after the lockdowns by the University of Missouri, and considerable increases in homicides and violence by COVID and Crime…


…data from the FBI documenting that overall crime was flat (decreased 0.4 percent) for the first six months of 2020 but with increases in aggravated assaults and homicides? Per the FBI, in 2018 there was a decrease in violence of 3.3 percent. It decreased again by 0.5 percent in 2019, indicating possible growth.

Juvenile Crimes Can Be Horrific

Contrary to the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system, media accounts routinely record juveniles arrested for very serious crimes.

The combination of an almost routine history of child abuse and neglect (for females, sexual violence is common) plus data regarding offenders being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crime plus fairly high rates of personal victimization (including brain injuries) plus the exposure to violence in some communities and PTSD plus the impulsive and developing nature of juvenile behavior can and does lead to serious violence.

Homicides Committed By Those Under 15 Have Increased 17 Percent

The latest statistics available come from the 2019 Uniform Crime Report, which shows a 16.9 percent increase in homicides. In real numbers, there were 69 murders committed by 15-year-old “children” in 2019.

Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 5.7 percent increase in homicides committed by teens under 18, per the 2018 Uniform Crime Report, but these figures leveled off in 2019, LawOfficer.Com.

Numbers Incarcerated

Juvenile justice is interesting because of criminal justice reform. In 2000, a record-setting 108,802 youth were held in detention centers awaiting trial or confined by the courts in juvenile facilities in the United States.

In a dramatic turnaround, by late-2010, the number of youth confined in state and county juvenile facilities had plummeted by 39 percent to 66,322.

This reversal erased a 63 percent increase in the number of confined youth that began in 1985, when 66,762 youth were confined–an increase driven by highly publicized increases in youth arrests, growing public concern about youth crime, and state juvenile justice policies favoring increased reliance on incarceration, National Juvenile Justice Network.

The rate of young people admitted to detention has fallen by 52% during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey of juvenile justice agencies in 33 states — equaling in two months a national decline that took 13 years, Juvenile Detention.

The bottom line is that the “incarceration” or “placement” of juveniles has dropped far more than reductions in the adult prison population.

Those Charged As Adults Decreases Dramatically

An estimated 76,000 young people are charged as adults each year – a decrease of 70% in the past 12 years, according to a report in May by Campaign for Youth Justice, a national organization focused on youth in the adult system.

Juvenile Arrests decline By 70 Percent

Findings show that in 2017, law enforcement agencies arrested more than 809,700 persons younger than 18 years old. This was the lowest number since at least 1980–and 70 percent below its 1996 peak of nearly 2.7 million, Juvenile Arrests.

Juvenile Victimization Declines 80 Percent

In 2018, the rate of violent crime against juveniles represents an 80-percent decline from 1995 (source below). From 1995 to 2004, the rate of violent crime against juveniles was higher than the rate of violent crime against young adults and adults.

Latest Department Of Justice Data

The Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention today released Juvenile Violent Victimization, 1995-2018. This bulletin uses three data sources–the National Crime Victimization Survey, National Incident-Based Reporting System, and National Vital Statistics System–to examine juvenile violent victimization from 1995 to 2018.

Violent Victimization

Overall, and for all racial groups, the rate of violent victimization for juveniles has declined since 1995 but did not change from 2015 to 2018. (Editor’s note, violent crime increased by 28 percent since 2015 per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, see Crime in America).

The percentage of violent victimizations for juveniles (ages 12-17) reported to the police has remained steady at about 25 percent since 2013. (Editor’s note, it’s 41 percent for all violent crimes).

In 2018, for juveniles ages 12 to 17, non-Hispanic whites had a higher violent victimization rate than Hispanics. The rate for non-Hispanic blacks did not differ from the rates of these two racial groups.

Juveniles ages 12 to 17 were most likely to be victimized by someone they knew (54 percent) and were less likely than young adults (ages 18 to 29) and adults (age 30 or older) to be victimized by a stranger.

Homicides against non-Hispanic black juveniles increased from 2015 to 2017. Additionally, compared to all other racial groups, non-Hispanic black juveniles had the highest homicide rates in 2017.

In 2018, the rate of violent crime against juveniles was 33.8 victimizations per 1,000, which represents an 80-percent decline from 1995 (172.6 victimizations per 1,000) to 2018. This rate did not change from 2015 to 2018.

From 1995 to 2018, the rate of violent crime against juveniles declined at a rate similar to that against young adults, and declined faster than the rate against adults. The rate of violent crime against young adults (ages 18 to 29) declined 74 percent during this period.

From 1995 to 2004, the rate of violent crime against juveniles was higher than the rate of violent crime against young adults and adults.

Age differences in violent victimization rates have been smaller since 2004; in 2018, the rate of violent crime against juveniles was similar to the rate of violent crime against young adults (33.3 victimizations per 1,000).

Juveniles had higher violent victimization rates than adults during the entire 1995 to 2018 period.

Juveniles had higher simple assault victimization rates than young adults and adults in 1995, 2015, and 2018

The rates of serious violent crime (aggravated assault, robbery, and sexual violence) against juveniles declined from 1995 to 2018, but the rates did not change from 2015 to 2018 except for sexual violence.

Reported To Law Enforcement

From 1995 to 2018, the rate of juvenile violent victimizations reported to the police decreased from 38.7 per 1,000 to 7.8 per 1,000. In 2018, 23 percent of violent crimes against juveniles were reported to the police.

In 2018, violent victimizations against juveniles were less likely to be reported to the police by the victim or someone else than violent victimizations against young adults (40 percent reported) and adults (51 percent reported).

Juvenile victimizations were most often reported by a third party (i.e., someone other than the victim).

Sex Of Victims

In 1995, male juveniles had higher rates of violent victimization than female juveniles. By 2015, the rates of violent crime against male and female juveniles did not differ.

Domestic Violence and Non-Stranger Violence

National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data show that 54 percent of violent crimes against juveniles ages 12 to 17 in 2018 involved a known offender (i.e., 9 percent domestic violence and 45 percent acquaintance violence).

Violent crimes against juveniles were most likely to involve a well-known/acquaintance offender (45 percent).

Well-known/ acquaintance violence was also more common in violent crimes against juveniles than violent crimes against young adults (20 percent) and adults (25 percent).

Violent crimes against juveniles were less likely than violent crimes against young adults and adults to involve domestic violence (i.e., family or intimate partner violence).

Nine percent of violent crime against juveniles, 27 percent of violent crime against young adults, and 24 percent of violent crime against adults was domestic violence.

Among juveniles, those ages 15 to 17 were more likely than those ages 12 to 14 to be victimized by domestic violence (16 percent and 4 percent, respectively).

Stranger violence was less prevalent in violent crimes against juveniles (31 percent) than in violent crimes against young adults ages 18 to 29 (46 percent).

Based on NIBRS data, juveniles were likely to know their offender.

About 36 percent of juvenile violence was domestic violence, 41 percent was well-known/acquaintance violence, and 6 percent was stranger violence. Compared to other juvenile age groups, violence against those age 11 or younger was more likely to be domestic violence (50 percent) and less likely to be well known/acquaintance violence (30 percent).


National Crime Victimization Survey data show that 15 percent of violent crimes against juveniles involved a weapon in 2018. 3 percent of violence against juveniles involved a firearm,

A Residence Is The Most Dangerous Location

NIBRS data show that the most common location where violence against juveniles occurred in 2016 was at a residence (56 percent). Violence at a residence was most common for juveniles age 11 or younger(70 percent).

The second most common location of violence against juveniles was schools, where 16 percent of incidents took place. School violence was most common for juveniles ages 12 to 14 (24 percent) and least common for those age 11 or younger (8 percent).

Department Of Justice

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

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Leonard Sipes

Leonard Sipes

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Aspiring drummer.Contact: [email protected]

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