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The Soaring Juvenile Crime Rate

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The Soaring Juvenile Crime Rate

     It is comforting to know that, according to recent crime statistics,
crime rates are dropping among adults. However, for teens the crime rate is
soaring. Between 2000 and 2004, the rate at which adults age 25 and older
committed homicides declined 22%; yet the rate jumped 16% for youths between 14
and 17. This age group surpassed the 18 - 24-year-old group in the early 2000's
as the most crime-prone. (Between 1966 and 2001, 18 - 24 showed a 62% increase
in homicides; 14 - 17 showed a 124% increase in murders.) It is this age group
that will be booming in the next decade (currently 39 million under 10).
     However, the American Civil Liberties Union, in a fact sheet on juvenile
crime published in mid May of this year, stated that contrary to public
perception, the percentage of violent crimes committed by juveniles is low.
According to one estimate, only 13% of violent crimes are committed by young
people (Gallup Poll Monthly, Sept. 2004). The ACLU further suggests that the
public also holds greatly inflated perceptions about the violence of today's
juveniles, claiming only about 0.5% of young people commit violent crimes. (³
Crime Time Bomb,² U.S. News & World Report, March 25, 2006)
     Current social trends do little to contradict the dire predictions made
about youth crime rates. Nearly all the factors that contribute to youth crime
-- single-parent households, child abuse, deteriorating inner-city schools --
are getting worse. At the same time, government is doing less (spending less)
to help break the cycle of poverty and crime.
     Predicting a generation¹s future crime pattern is, of course, risky.
Especially when outside factors remain unpredictable (Will drug use be up or
down? Will gun laws be tightened?). Also, from year to year, crime rates can
fluctuate much like the stock market. What goes up generally comes down, and
what goes down generally comes back up.
     It is probably no surprise to hear that crime rates among juveniles vary
across race (structural limitations/discrimination, self-fulfilling prophecy,
etc.). Minorities, especially Blacks, have a higher arrest rate for violent
crimes (per 100,000) than Whites. Black males age 15 - 25, while only one
percent of the U.S. population, constitute 14% of the victims of homicide and
19% of the perpetrators. In the 1990's, the arrest rate for murder rose for
young blacks by 115%.
     Racial differences is only one factor which impacts juvenile crime.
Other areas that, directly or indirectly, deal with juvenile delinquency include
changes in the family structure and its functions, and in institutions and
policies aimed at rehabilitating these troubled youths.

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