Juvenile arrests just keep falling, according to the latest national numbers, and 2019 saw the lowest rate since 1980.
The rate of kids younger than 18 who were arrested fell again in 2019, but the numbers varied across demographic groups and offenses, according to the annual report released this month by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs.
The juvenile arrest rate for murder had increased in recent years, but it fell 6% in 2019. It was the first time in seven years that the arrest rate of youth on murder charges fell. Statisticians warn against reading too much into a year-over-year change and say long-term trends are more meaningful.
Arrest rates for robbery and aggravated assault dipped to a record low in 2019. Similarly, the juvenile arrest rate for larceny-theft, burglary and arson dropped to lows not seen since 1980. But the rate for stealing cars and trucks was above its 2013 low point.
Overall, the trend remains positive for society and seems to be gathering momentum in recent years. Between 2010 and 2019, the report says, the number of juvenile arrests fell 58%, to a shade under 700,000. Girls made up a growing share of juvenile arrestees (31%) in 2019.
Despite overall encouraging trends, Black youth made up a disproportionate share of juvenile arrestees. While 75% of all kids age 10 to 17 were white and 17% were Black, Black youth accounted for 42% of kids arrested on property crime charges compared with 55% who were white.
Black youth made up 48% of those arrested for violent crime, which includes murder, robbery and aggravated assault.
Researchers drew on uniform crime reports to the FBI from participating state and local jurisdictions across the country, and they developed a statistical method for estimating juvenile arrest rates.
Officials warned that not all jurisdictions categorize crimes the same way and some don’t report demographic data, so all statistics in the report should be viewed with some caution.