NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stopping Teenage Crime

December 1, 1995

Teenagers commit the largest portion of all violent crime in America. While the national rate of violent crime has leveled off and the nation's population of juveniles has fallen, violent crimes committed by juveniles have risen sharply.

More murders and robberies are committed by 18-year-old males than by any other age group. More than one-third of all murders are committed by offenders under the age of 21.

The number of 13- to 15-year-olds arrested for murder jumped from 390 in 1982 to 740 a decade later.

By the time the juvenile justice system finally incarcerates an older teenager for a violent crime, the offender often has a rap sheet from his early teens - or before. Actual lockups are rare.The demographics will soon change to favor even more youth violence. The number of male teenagers has been declining since about 1980, and in 1995 America has its fewest number since 1965. But the male teenage population will rebound by the turn of the century. By 2010, the number of 15- to 19-year-old males will be 11.5 million, an increase of 30 percent from the 1995 low.

Today's juvenile justice system is oriented toward rehabilitation and away from accountability. The statistics indicate that this must change. Government must affirm, through consistent enforcement of law, that bad actions bring about bad consequences.

Source: Paul McNulty, "Natural Born Killers? Preventing the Coming Explosion of Teenage Crime," Policy Review, Winter 1995, Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002, (202) 546-4400.


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