Cholee has a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and has volunteered her time in juvenile group homes.
Youth crime has been going down for many years and only constitutes a small portion of the nation's crime today. Juvenile violent crime has also gone down and is at its lowest level since 1987. Just as with the adult system the juvenile system suffers from gender and ethnic disparity. Male minorities are more likely than female Caucasians to commit and be charged with crimes. African American juveniles are held at twice the rate of Hispanics and five times the rate of Caucasians. The disparity could be explained through economic status of the families these juveniles come from or their family history. There are other factors that play into why children commit crimes, however these are the top two reasons, why juveniles will turn to crime.
Different crimes have different offender types causing disparity within the system. Those offenders who commit violent crimes are not the same as those who commit property crimes or status offenses.
Knowing what types of juveniles commit what crimes can help with rehabilitation of those juveniles. Understanding what type of juvenile you are dealing with will help in providing programs to keep juveniles from partaking in these crimes in the first place.
Status Offenses: Are behaviors that are considered violations of the law because of age. When committed by a minor these violations are considered status offenses while remaining legal for the adult population. Violations include, but are not limited to truancy, running away, and under age drinking.
- Girls are more often arrested for status offenses, especially runaways
- Boys constitute the higher proportion for under age drinking
- Most cases under status offenses go to family crisis units, county attorneys, and social service agencies. Juvenile courts try to stay away from these offenses as they are considered minor offenses.
Property Crimes: Include burglary, larceny, theft, and arson.
- Over a quarter of juveniles arrested for property crimes where under the age of eighteen
- Boys make up over sixty percent of those juveniles arrested
- The rate of juveniles committing property crimes is down by half since 1985
Violent Crimes: Include murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault
- Nearly a quarter of all violent crimes where committed by someone under the age of eighteen
- Most violent crimes are committed between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. which is right around the time school is getting out
- Boys represent over eighty percent of juvenile arrests for violent crime
Quiz on Juvenile Crime:
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Which type of crime do juveniles commit more often?
- Status Offenses
- Property Crimes
- Violent Crimes
- Burglary and robbery can be used synonymously.
- Juvenile courts handle an estimated ____cases every year.
- 1.6 Million
- 3 Million
- An estimated ___ youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year.
- Neighborhoods with activities and involvement have less crime
- The presence of a father in the home reduces the likelihood of a delinquent son.
- Property Crimes
- 1.6 Million
Juveniles in Adult Court
Nationwide, it is becoming easier and easier to try juveniles into adult criminal courts. With laws being passed lowering the minimum age in which a juvenile can be tried in adult court, the transfer of juveniles to adult courts is becoming more prevalent. Today, all fifty states allow for juvenile prosecution in criminal court. There are three ways in which a juvenile can be transferred to adult criminal court.
Judicial Waiver: This is the most popular method and is used by juvenile court judges to transfer juveniles to adult court in order to deny the protections of juvenile jurisdictions.
- All states except New York, Nebraska, and New Mexico provide judicial waivers
- Youngest a juvenile can be waived into adult court is 13-14
Statutory Exclusion: A juvenile accused of an excluded offense is treated as an adult from the beginning.
- Twenty-eight states have statues that remove certain offenses for age/offense/prior records from juvenile court's jurisdiction. That means states can refuse anyone fitting into one of these categories from being defined as a "child" for juvenile court purposes.
- Others only include the most serious offenses such as New Mexico, Mississippi, and Arizona.
Direct File: Gives discretion to the prosecutors as to where to file each case. Typically direct files give both juvenile and adult criminal courts the ability to hear cases involving certain offenses.
- Wide variation among states regarding criteria; some emphasize offense categories, age of offender, and still others use past history of the juvenile.
- Generally, the minimum level of offense seriousness is lower than those needed for statutory exclusions or mandatory waivers.
Factors that increase Juvenile Delinquency
Although juvenile arrest rates have declined in the last several decades there are still valuable aspects of the community, programs, and even protective factors that can decrease the likelihood of juvenile delinquency. In order to reduce the risks of juveniles turning to crime, it is important to understand and recognize the different risk factors and what can be done to prevent and eliminate these risks.
Individual Risk Factors:
- Early aggressive behavior towards others and animals
- Substance abuse
- Association with antisocial or delinquent peers
Family and Community Risk Factors:
- Childhood maltreatment
- Parental criminality
These are some of the top indicators that a juvenile is more prone to delinquent acts. Spotting these risk factors and providing intervention early on, can greatly help reduce the negative effects of these risk factors.
Factors to Help Protect Children From Risk of Delinquency
These are just a few factors that can help prevent children from turning to delinquent acts even if they show risk factors for delinquency. These factors work because they provide youth with a positive role model, community, and family outlook.
- Having good attachments to family, friends, and positive role models gives children a reason to do the right thing, so as not to disappoint those they are attached to.
- When our youth are committed to positive activities they are more likely to protect their school and activities from other delinquents. Commitments to extra curricular activities, school, or even church give children a positive outlet for all their energy and allows them to do something constructive with their time.
- Beliefs or values teach children in the way they should go. With positive role models and religious backgrounds children and young adults are better apt to react in a positive way to stress and hard to mange situations.
- Children and teens involved in their community and their schools are more apt to protect it from other delinquents. Those who have put their own time, energy, and are committed to their involvements are not going to want to see those activities and programs disappear because of delinquent peers.
Although juvenile crime is on the decline knowing the risk factors that lead to delinquency can help to continue this trend. Bringing troubled youth out of poverty stricken neighborhoods and into after school programs can greatly increase positive factors that will help fight against the negative risk factors that they live with everyday. Just because a child lives in a low socioeconomic neighborhood with violence, or comes from a poor family environment does not mean they should be forgotten. These children still have the opportunity to turn away from crime with the right preventative measures.
If you're interested in what you can do to help prevent delinquency check out my other article here.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Cholee Clay