After consistently increasing from 1985 to 1994, the juvenile violent crime rate declined in 1995
For the first time in 8 years the juvenile violent crime arrest rate declined in 1995
The FBI monitors the level of violent crime and trends in violent crime arrests by aggregating information on four crimes -- murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Together, these four offenses are the Violent Crime Index. While each may display its own pattern of change, historically the Violent Crime Index has been the Nation's barometer of violent crime.
In recent years, the large annual increases in the juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate have focused the Nation's attention on this problem. Between 1987 and 1994 the rate increased 70%. After years of increases, however, the rate declined slightly in 1995, down 3%. While this decline still leaves the juvenile violent crime arrest rate in 1995 substantially above the levels of the mid-1980's, even a small decline after years of consistently large increases is welcome news.
A greater proportion of violent crimes were attributed to juveniles in 1994 and 1995 than in any of the last 20 years
A portion of all violent crimes reported to police are cleared, or solved, by law enforcement. In 1995 the FBI reports that law enforcement agencies cleared 45% of reported Violent Crime Index offenses -- more specifically 65% of murders, 51% of forcible rapes, 25% of robberies, and 56% of aggravated assaults. If cleared crimes are representative of all crimes, then the proportion of these crimes cleared by juvenile arrests should provide an indication of the proportion of violent crimes committed by juveniles.
In both 1994 and 1995, 14% of violent crimes cleared by law enforcement were cleared by the arrest of a juvenile. Based on these statistics, juveniles were responsible for a greater proportion of the Nation's violent crime problem in 1994 and 1995 than in any other year in the previous two decades. The juvenile responsibility was nearly as high in 1975 (13%). However, the level gradually declined after 1975 reaching a low point in 1987 (9%), then increasing through 1994.
In relative terms the decline in juvenile arrests was small, but the nature of the decline gives hope. The decline in violent crime arrests in 1995 was led by declines in the arrests of younger juveniles. Overall, violent crime arrests of juveniles ages 15 to 17 fell by 2% between 1994 and 1995, while arrests of younger juveniles dropped 5%.
If the level of delinquency of young juveniles is correlated with the level of similar behavior as they age, the lower violent crime arrest rate of the younger juveniles in 1995 indicates that their levels of violence at ages 15 to 17 are likely to be below those of 15- to 17-year-olds in 1995. If so, more declines in juvenile violence should be expected in upcoming years. However, there has only been one year of decline -- and one point of change does not by itself make a trend.
Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence