During my presentation last week, I focused on the violent crimes that juveniles commit and how the percentages of offenses have changed over the last fifteen to twenty years. Some of my focus for this presentation dealt with violence within schools- the alarming rates of student on student violence, as well as student on faculty/staff violence. I also provided many arrest statistics for juveniles who committed violent crimes. Statistics that compared juvenile trends to adult trends and statistics comparing black and white children were also an aspect of the presentation. The final part of the project looked at what some states have done to combat juvenile violence and also how they are treating youths that are arrested for such offenses.
The most important thing to understand is what crimes fall under the category of violent offenses. The are four components are 1) murders and nonnegligent manslaughter, 2) forcible rape, 3) aggravated assault, and 4) robbery. While I was doing the research for this, I found it difficult to find statistics for rape, assault, and robbery for juveniles. So much of my focus was on the homicide rates for youths. But during the last week I found some new numbers that reflect the trends of the other three.
Robbery Rates- Declined 27% between 1981 and 1988
Increased 70% between 1988 and 1994
Fell substantially (33%) from 1995 to 1997
Rape Rates- The arrest rate has remained steady from 1981 and 1997.
The high rate was 23 arrests/100,000 juveniles
The low was 16 per 100,000 juveniles
Aggravated Assault Rates- Declined 16% from 1994 to 1997
This level equals what it was in 1991(250 arrests/100,000 juveniles)
Now, I will proceed onto the first topic of my presentation, violence within the walls of school. In 1996, students age 12-18 were victims of 255,000 incidents of nonfatal violent crimes. That same year, 10% of all public schools in the United States reported experiencing at least one serious violent crime. Most of these, undoubtedly, were aggravated assaults. There were also 4,000 rapes or other types of sexual battery and 11,000 physical attacks or fights which involved the use of weapons reported in the 1996-1997 school year. The five-year period from 1992-1996 saw teachers or faculty members be the victims of 1,581,000 nonfatal crimes, 619,000 of which were violent. One possible explanation for so many crimes in schools, is the rise in gang activity and membership. A study was conducted from 1989 through 1995 on how visible gangs were in schools. In 1989, 15.3% of students reported gang presence and 28.4% recognized it in 1995. That is nearly a 13% increase in only seven years.
The second part of my project that dealt with the school setting looked at the amount of violence that occurs on school days as opposed to non-school days. Even though children are in school for only half the days of the year, 57% of violent crimes committed by juveniles occur on days there are school. Of those crimes, 1 out of every 5 occurs within the four-hour period directly following school (2-6pm). The obvious reason for this is, many children go home to a parentless house since most people are still working. Or, if they go to an after-school program where there are more young people, there is also a higher chance of an altercation because kids are bound to have disagreements that may lead to violence.On non-school days, the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles increased with each hour that passed. The hours of 8 to 10 PM represented the peak time (see handout #1 for graph).
The next part of my presentation dealt with juvenile violent crime arrest rates. Over the last 30 years, there has an increase of 50% in juvenile arrest. Time spanning from the early 1970s through the late 1980s saw a relatively constant arrest rate. It was the end of the 1980s that saw a change occur. There was a 64% increase between 1988 and 1994, but that tapered off this decade as it had declined 12% by the year 1996 (no statistics from 1998 were ready at this time). Another point to go along with this deals with how juveniles act in comparison to adults. The number of juveniles arrested for murder more than doubled between the mid 1980s and 1993 (its peak). This represented a percentage change far greater than the increase in adult arrests for murder.
There are three points worth considering however. The first is, although juveniles have had an increase in violent crimes, they are still not responsible for most violent offenses committed. Based on FBI clearance data, only 9% of all violent crimes in 1986 were committed by juveniles (5% of all murders). That number grew to 13% in 1996, and 8% of all murders. The second point is that the late 1990s have seen the trend decline from its peak in 1993. However it is still at a much higher level than it was ten years ago. The 1996 arrest rate was 60% higher than that of 1987. And the third point deals with the debate of the increasing percentages. Is there A) more violent juveniles, or B) the same amount of criminals who are just committing more crimes? The National Center for Juvenile Justice investigated to see if there was a new breed of violent offenders or super predators as they call them. This study proved that there are no such things, just more of the juvenile population is brought into the justice system for violent acts.
Im will now go into depth about homicide rates and statistics. The reason is, throughout my research the only violent crime that had good statistical background was homicide. In 1980, juveniles were arrested for 1,300 homicides. That equals 8% of all homicides in the United States. Numbers declined through 1984 (5%- a total of 800 offenses). Then after 1984, numbers shot up both in number as well as proportion to the whole. This backs up the point I made earlier about how the juvenile percentage has grown much more than the adult rate (see handout #2).
In 1995, a juvenile was an offender in 14% of all homicides in which an offender was identified. That equates to 2,300 juveniles being implicated in 1,900 homicides. Females accounted for 6% of all known juvenile homicide offenders. 1995 saw a drastic drop of 17% in juvenile homicides as compared to the ten-year period prior to it. Those ten years saw a 211% increase among males and a 34% rise among females.
The next year that I used statistics for was 1997. This was the only area that I found statistics on all four components of violent crime. The area that had the highest juvenile arrest rate was robbery. Nearly 1/3 (30%) of all people arrested for robbery were under the age of 18. This was greatly higher than the other three. The number for forcible rape was 17% and juveniles were responsible for 14% of all homicides and aggravated assaults.
The final area in this topic I looked at was the comparison of blacks and whites. I found only one statistic but I felt it was important enough to include in this presentation. Between 1987 and 1993, the number of known juvenile murderers increased 151% among black youth and 54% among white youth (see handout #3).
Extensive media coverage of violent crimes by juveniles especially homicides with firearms fueled ideas of a juvenile crime epidemic in the early 1990s. This led to a response from many governors and state legislations to toughen up and buckle down on juvenile crime. There is good news, 1996 was the second year in a row that the juvenile violent crime arrest rate declined. However, violence by juveniles is still too prevalent and remains a great cause for concern among lawmakers, politicians, citizens, and criminal justice practitioners.
All of that led to many new laws being enacted in 1996 and 1997 to go after serious and violent juvenile crimes. There are four areas that the government focused on: 1) jurisdictional authority, 2) jurisdictional disposition/sentencing authority, 3) corrections programming, and 4) confidentiality issues.
1)Jurisdictional authority deals with age/offense transfer laws. That means more states are beginning to try juveniles as adults for serious crimes they commit. One example is the Edward OBrien case here in Massachusetts. As a teenager, he was tried and convicted as an adult for killing his neighbor by stabbing her multiple times. This is the punishment theory of the four
2)Jurisdictional disposition/sentencing authority deals with the blending of sentencing options. This idea does exactly what it sounds like; it combines more than sentences (presumably one that is the typical punishment for juveniles and the other a typical adult punishment). This is typical in cases of nonnegligent manslaughter, such as self-defense cases where death was not necessary nor was it intentional. But some judges may deem the crime too strong for juvenile punishment. This also serves as a punishment idea, similar to jurisdictional authority.
3)Correctional programming emphasizes secure corrections programs with community based interventions that will stress public safety and offender accountability. I think this is a great way to punish juveniles. Get them back into the community, and maybe they will realize the significance their actions carry. This is the rehabilitation theory out of the four.
4)The idea of confidentiality has begun to shift greatly from where it once stood. Prior to this decade, states and government laws generally protected the identity of the criminal as well as the victim. Now, states are de-emphasizing the traditional confidentiality concerns and emphasizing public sharing of information. This idea is the deterrence theory of the four.
As you can see from this paper, much of my first presentation dealt with juvenile homicides and not too many of the reasons for it. That is going to be the focus of my second paper. But researching for this paper surprised me quite a bit. I knew there were a lot more juvenile homicides and juvenile violent crimes in general than in the past, but I attributed much of it to the media and poor parental guidance. I do believe the media plays a large role in the increase of juvenile violence but it is not the only contributor. Incidents such as the shooting at Columbine High School this past year, get so much press that much of the U.S. population thinks juvenile violence in out of control, when it has actually declined the last few years as some of my statistics prove. Granted, there is a lot more ground to cover to get back to the level juvenile crime was in the mid 1980s, however I think laws such as the four I discussed will contribute greatly to an increase of juvenile violence. I know that experts are saying that in the next ten years, a huge increase is expected for juvenile violence, but I strongly feel that the more programs we have for these youths, the less violence will occur.