NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Arrest Rates Are High

August 9, 1996

For the first time in almost a decade, nationwide arrest rates for violent crimes by juveniles fell slightly in 1995, according to preliminary data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from local police reports. The FBI also reported that the arrest rate for homicides by juveniles fell for the second year in a row -- after tripling during the previous decade.

  • The rate of homicides committed by youths age 10 to 17 rose from 5.4 per 100,000 in 1984 to 14.5 in 1993.
  • In 1994 it dropped to 13.2 per 100,000 and in 1995 to 11.2 per 100,000.
  • The overall rate of juvenile violent crime -- which includes assault, robbery and rape, as well as murder, declined by 2.9 percent in 1995.

The preliminary figures for 1995 are subject to revision and a final report is expected in November. Experts are cautious in interpreting the data -- which weren't broken down by region -- and give various reasons for the drop in homicides:

  • The most violent young people -- the first group involved in the crack cocaine trade and usually armed -- have died or become adults.
  • The drop may be due in part to the growing number of state laws that allow juveniles to be tried as adults, suggests Attorney General Janet Reno.
  • And since seven or eight cities account for 25 percent of all the homicides in the country, lower murder rates in those cities reduce the national average, points out criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University.

According to a March 1996 Justice Department report on juvenile crime, the actual number of homicides by juveniles exceeded 26,000 in 1994. And the percentage of murderers using guns quadrupled, while the rate of murders using other weapons remained the same.

Sources: Fox Butterfield, "Crimes of Violence Among Juveniles Decline Slightly," New York Times, August 9, 1996; and Ronald J. Ostrow, "Number of Young Killers Triples from 1984 to '94," Houston Chronicle, March 8, 1996.


Browse more articles on Government Issues