Juvenile crime is down again in California for the fifth year in a row according to a report on 2010 crime data released by the California Department of Justice. The Juvenile Justice report released last Friday shows that arrest rates for all crimes are down 15%.
. Since 2005, arrests for assaults are down 25%, motor vehicle theft a massive 61%, and arson down 44%. So, why are we seeing this remarkable drop in juvenile crime rates? According to the DOJ press release “ The number of juvenile felony arrests has decreased by 11.2 percent in the past year, indicating that efforts to prevent crime at a young age have been successful.”
There is nothing to explain it, according to Michael Males of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Albeit frustratingly non-specific, he sees this downward trend in juvenile crime rate as exactly that: a trend. Taking a look at the figures more closely, a pattern starts to emerge. In 1980, felony arrest rates for youth were 97,376. In 2010, the arrests rates are almost halved at 52,020. Taking into consideration population changes over the last 30 years, this is a decrease of 64% over the last 30 years.
But, let's take a look at the 1980's teenagers who are now in their forties. They're still getting arrested at high rates (103,030 arrests in that age group in 2010, a five-fold increase over their parent's arrest rate at 22,003 in 1980). Males argues that if the DOJ wants to take credit for the drop in juvenile arrests, they should also take responsibility for the swell in middle-aged crime rates.
If the youth population is increasing (4.2 million in the 10-17 age range in 2010 census) -- and they're living under the lowest level of per capita policing ever recorded, and poverty numbers are up, children living in non-traditional and single-parent families is up and the crime rate is going down, the question becomes: Are the kids just sick and tired of their parents getting in trouble?
This generational shift in crime rates is nothing to take lightly, says Males. “ This is a time to avoid easy answers” and look even more carefully at why this generation of youth are making better choices despite the challenging conditions they are facing every day.
Meth arrests, however, turn the stats sharply upward. Overall, while all drug arrests for juvvies are up 11% from 2009 -- the arrest rate for methamphetamine and barbiturates shot up 33% over '09 numbers, a higher percentage increase in juvvies than in adults (although adult arrests in these categories are up 13%).
Racial disparity in arrests for the most violent crimes are still evident. In 2010, 181 youth we).ted for homicide, out of which only nine were white males. The majority arrested were Hispanic males (91), followed by black males(38). There were more black females( 14) arrested for homicide than white males.
--Elizabeth J. Carlyle for California's Children