Youth Crime, 2006: Get Ready for Distortions

Youth Crime, 2006: Get Ready for Distortions

September 24, 2007

Here’s the summary of youth crime changes in 2006, good and bad:

Arrest rates per 100,000 youths age 10-17

Rate Change
Offense
1970
1990
2005
2006
2006 vs. 2005
All index
2,438.8
3,098.3
1,541.7
1,526.8
-1.0%
Violent
225.9
431.7
284.9
303.2
+6.4%
Murder
6.5
12.1
3.8
3.9
+4.3%
Rape
13.2
21.9
11.7
10.3
11.6%
Robbery
120.6
155.9
87.0
106.9
+22.9%
Assault
85.5
241.9
182.5
182.1
-0.3%
Property
2,213.0
2,666.6
1,256.8
1,223.6
-2.6%
Burglary
610.7
531.5
232.5
250.6
+7.8%
Larceny
1,285.0
1,759.3
888.9
845.0
-4.9%
MV theft
294.2
344.8
111.8
103.8
-7.2%
Arson
23.0
31.0
23.6
24.1
+2.3%
Drugs
320.2
306.1
570.1
588.7
+3.2%
Md assault
215.3
562.8
738.1
745.7
+1.0%
Other sex
42.9
63.9
49.3
47.2
-4.3%
Weapons
70.1
151.2
133.7
142.2
+6.4%
Vandalism
332.0
490.5
310.5
353.1
13.7%

 

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2006, Table 38. Totals adjusted for populations covered by annual FBI reports.

What’s true: Murder, robbery and violent crime arrests did increase among youths in 2006, as did drug, misdemeanor assault, arson, weapons, and vandalism arrests. The robbery increase was particularly large. Many of these increases also occurred among older ages. See updated crime tables showing arrests and arrest rates for all ages and a dozen offenses, 1960 through 2006.

It should be remembered that arrest statistics are flawed indicators of crime itself. For example, youths under 18 comprised 9.7% of murder arrests in the US in 2006, but the FBI’s crime clearance reports estimate youths accounted for just 5.6% of all murders. Similarly, youths comprise 16.5% of violent crime arrests but commit just 12.6% of violent crimes. Keep these fractions in mind when news stories and commentators rush again and again to blame violence and murder on youth.

Further, 2006’s arrest increase was heavily concentrated among black youth, which probably means poorer youth in general (unfortunately, federal crime statistics don’t separate Latino youth from white youth). Note both the different trends and large discrepancies by race, the latter of which widened in 2006.

Arrest rates per 100,000 youths age 10-17, black vs non-black youth, 2006 vs. 2005

Black youth
Non-black youth
Offense
2005
2006
Change
2005
2006
Change
Index
3,219.8
3,339.3
+3.7%
1,211.1
1,177.8
-2.8%
Violent
884.8
971.2
+9.8%
169.2
176.3
+4.2%
Murder
12.7
14.6
+15.4%
2.0
1.9
-7.0%
Rape
24.6
22.3
-9.4%
9.1
8.0
-11.5%
Robbery
367.3
453.2
+23.4%
33.5
41.4
+23.4%
Assault
480.3
481.1
0.2%
124.6
125.0
+0.4%
Property
2,334.9
2,368.1
+1.4%
1,041.9
1,001.4
-3.9%
Drug
1,041.5
1,111.2
+6.7%
474.7
488.1
+2.8%

 

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2006, Table 43.

What the press, police, and “experts” (same things) will never mention: Overall youth crime, as measured by arrests for serious “index” offenses (eight major violent and property offenses) fell to its lowest level ever reported in 46 years of records (national crime reports, far less complete than today, began in 1960). Further, rape declined substantially, reaching its lowest rate since 1964. All eight major offenses are lower today than in 1990, and seven of the eight (only assault, whose definitions and policing have expanded) are lower today than in 1970.

FBI crime clearance reports (the best measure of how much youth contribute to the nation’s total crime volume) show that in 2006, 17.3% of all serious violent and property crime in the United States was committed by persons under age 18, up from 16.6% in 2005. The percentage of crime committed by youth today remains well below that of 1965 (30.2), 1975 (30.0%), and 1990 (19.3%). The percent of crime committed by youths ages 10-17 expressed as their percent of population age 10 and older rose from 1.08 in 2005 to 1.14 in 2006, still considerably below youth-crime-versus-youth-population ratios of the past: 1.39 in 1965, 1.43 in 1975, and 1.29 in 1990. There are no grounds, in short, for branding today’s youth as uniquely criminal compared to past generations; just the opposite conclusion would be warranted when all serious crime is assessed.

Conclusion (more details to follow this week): As a generation, youth have never been less criminal than they are today–despite massive increases in crime among their middle-aged parents in the last two decades. (The only age group to show an increase in rates of serious crime in 2006 was 50-59). However, there was an increase in most youth arrest caregories in 2006. There remains a severely impoverished subgroup of youth whose crime rates remain cyclical and took an upturn, especially for robbery and less so for murder, in 2006.