Understanding Juvenile Arrest Trends in 2008

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.


Juvenile arrest trends in 2008 were dismal.  From the 1990’s onward, a trend of charging kids as adults began to increase and though juvenile crime rates began to decline in the first decade of this century, law makers continue getting tougher. With still increasing numbers of children being incarcerated with adults, we must consider socially whether this is wise or not?

Imagine walking into a room with 50 young people ranging in age from 7 to 17.  Now imagine that suddenly, five of these just die.  You now have a picture of the murder rate among juveniles in 2008 (Puzzanchera, 2008).  However, that just applies to juveniles as victims.

Comparing arrests, reports and unknown violent...
Comparing arrests, reports and unknown violent crime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To get a complete picture, arrests statistics, closure figures, and other data are needed.  Since its inception, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report has been improved repeatedly and today displays very detailed facts pertaining to juvenile crime in America.

The Uniform Crime Report is by no means a perfect tool for understanding criminal trends, but it is indispensable to the criminal justice professional.

Juvenile Arrest Trends Overall Decrease

As an example of how useful the Uniform Crime Report can be in understanding trends, it can be noted that in 2008, juvenile crime overall declined (Puzzanchera, 2008).  Naturally, this is a good trend that criminal justice professionals would like to see continue.

Chart indicating the overall violent and prope...
Chart indicating the overall violent and property crime rates per 100,000 inhabitants from the Uniform Crime Report. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

None-the-less, this only reflects the overall arrest rate that includes all categories.  Understandably, some categories would experience increases whereas others decrease; hence, it would be wise for criminal justice professionals to consider why certain crimes continue to trend upward.

For instance, whereas all crime rates for serious violations declined from the period from 1999 to 2008, Robbery rates increased by 25% and there was no change in the rate for simple assault (Puzzanchera, 2008).  There could be a connection.

It would not be difficult to claim that because the economy plummeted between those same years, an increase in robbery makes sense.  Likewise, Psychology knows that high stress environments often lead to violent events and the simple assault figures appear to reflect this reality.

Contrarily, the Property Crime Index decreased by 20%, burglary by 14%, Larceny-theft by 17%, and Motor vehicle theft by 50% (Puzzanchera, 2008).

Juvenile Arrest Trends Drug Offense Increase

Looking at the same data, one might conclude that drug use among juveniles in on the decline, for the drop between 1999 and 2008 amounted to 7%.  However, in looking at the same data on a year-by-year basis, one will notice that the decline spanned but a couple of years and as of 2006, 2007, and 2008, drug offenses among juveniles was again on the incline.  A similar thing can be said about the robbery rates (Puzzanchera, 2008).

Indeed, one thing we can learn from viewing this data is that viewing the data over time, but in such a way as to see the year-by-year comparisons can show trends that otherwise would have been missed.

Implications for Females and Minorities

This is a chart showing trends in violent crim...
This is a chart showing trends in violent crime rates by the race of the victim in the U.S. from 1973-2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Considering that minority arrests made up half of the stats in many categories, it is clear that current strategies are working well for white youths, whereas the same measures are failing to work for these youths.  What is needed for them is another approach, sensible and logical given that there are cultural differences that may hinder certain approaches and help others.

Likewise, whereas juvenile crimes declined, crimes committed by female juveniles increased (Puzzanchera, 2008).  Surely cultural differences should be examined.

Female Increase/Male Decrease in Violent Crime

This is a chart showing trends in violent crim...
This is a chart showing trends in violent crime rates by gender in the U.S. from 1973-2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In reviewing the statistics for female arrest violent crime rates, one striking detail is that the statistical changes in these rates to male declines reflects the adult population as well and the juvenile (Puzzanchera, 2008).

This indicates that the reason for the change is the same across the population.  This should somewhat simplify the process for researchers interested in understanding this phenomenon.


The measuring tools provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Uniform Crime Report are excellent tools that improve continually.  The bulletin of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provides excellent opinions without sounding like opinions, but which are useful in gaining a clear understanding of the situation as it relates factually to juvenile justice.

Violent crime rates 1973-2005
Violent crime rates 1973-2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So imagine now you are in that room with 50 juveniles of varying ages.  If one in eight violent crimes are committed by a juvenile and violent crimes make up 16% of all juvenile crimes, a calculation could be made regarding how many of those 50 are violent offenders (Puzzanchera, 2008).

I only pose the problem in this manner to avoid offending the electronic editors with the offensive rhetorical question, namely,

How comfortable would you be flashing a lot of cash in that crowd?

The stats remind us that despite current trends, there is yet much to do in the field of juvenile justice.

You may also like to Read…

Juvenile Justice?

Criminal Justice Trends: Juveniles in Jail

Is it Possible to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency?

Juvenile Justice System Case Study: A Needs-Based Recommendation

Parens Patriae: Can the State be a Better Parent?

Recommendations for Improvements to the Juvenile Justice System


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