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Challenging the Myths

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2000
8 pages
Publication Series
This Bulletin, extracted from "Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report," examines the juvenile crime numbers and shows that the predicted emergence of a new kind of violent youth is not supported by the most recent data.
Juvenile violent crime trends of the late 1980's and the early 1990's led some to conclude that the nature of juvenile violence had changed and that a new breed of juvenile was becoming a threat to U.S. society. There is evidence that juvenile violence did increase for a few years in the early 1990's. Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey show that juvenile offending returned to traditional levels by 1995, but the juvenile violent crime arrest rate did not follow this pattern. Even after a large decline that began in 1994, the juvenile violent crime arrest rate in 1997 was still far above levels of the early and middle 1980's. The data show, however, that in the 1990's, the Nation experienced an overall increase in violent crime arrest rates among all age groups, not just juveniles. There is no indication that some juvenile "superpredator" group has been leading the pack in the commission of violent crimes. In fact, the greatest increase in violent crime arrest rates occurred with persons in their thirties and forties. Further, arrest increases are not always related to actual increases in crime; they can reflect positive policy changes. Regardless, it is clear that national crime and arrest statistics provide no evidence for a new breed of juvenile superpredator. Nearly all of the increase in the juvenile arrest rate for murder that occurred between 1987 and 1993 was erased by 1997. In fact, the murder rate in the United States in 1997 was lower than it had been since the 1960's. No one has been able to predict juvenile violence trends accurately. It is clear, however, that the Nation is not doomed to high levels of juvenile violence simply because the juvenile population will increase. 6 figures

Date Published: March 1, 2000