S.E. Williams | Contributor
This month the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Institute of Justice released a bulletin showing the latest trends in arrests involving youth under the age 18.
The assessment was based on information collected by Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program at the University of California Riverside.
The report considered the number of arrests made by law enforcement agencies in 2017—not the number of individuals arrested, nor the number of crimes committed.
The number of arrests is not the same as the number of people arrested because some people are arrested more than once during the year. Nor do the numbers reflect the number of crimes the young people committed because sometimes a series of crimes a person committed result in a single arrest, or a single crime may result in the arrest of several people.
The good news is the arrests of juveniles in 2017 was at its lowest level since 1980. The continued downward trend in juvenile arrests is clear when considering the trend over the last decade—between 2008 and 2017, the number of juvenile arrests has fallen 59 percent. Unfortunately, the arrest of juvenile girls has grown from 18 percent in 1980 to 29 percent in 2017.
In addition, overall juvenile arrests for certain crimes has also increased. For example, arrests for robbery increased about 1 percent while arrests for murder increased 23 percent.
Despite the positive trends in criminal justice Black youth continue to be disproportionately and disparately impacted, a clear indication that justice is not blind when administered to Black youth.
Consider this: The racial composition of America’s juvenile population between the ages of 10 and 17 in 2017 was 75 percent White (this includes Hispanics), 16 percent Black, 6 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2 percent American Indian.
Now consider this: More than half (52%) of all juvenile arrests for violent crimes in 2017 involved Black youth, only 45 percent involved White (and Hispanic) youth.
This was most dramatically highlighted in arrest rates for murder and robbery which were much higher for Black youth than youth of other races.
The murder arrest rate for White juveniles reached a historic low in 2013, 82 percent below its 1994 peak, while the rate for Black juveniles reached its low point a year earlier in 2012 when it fell 87 percent below its 1993 peak.
Since their respective low points in this regard murder arrest rates for both groups increased through 2017. While the increases reflected a 22 percent rise for White juveniles, it showed a breathtaking 47 percent increase in arrests among Black youth.
As legislators, criminal justice advocates and others continue to work for parity in the criminal justice system, Black communities should demand an equal focus on the disparate incarceration of Black children and youth.