Juvenile Arrests 70 Percent Below Peak-Adult Arrests Decline


Arrests of adults and juveniles are down considerably. Why?

What impact does this have on growing violence in cities?

Is intense criticism of cops having an impact?


I’m asked by readers about “exploding” numbers of arrests. But arrests of juveniles and adults are down considerably, Arrests.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, violent crime is up 28 percent since 2015, Crime in The US.

However, per the FBI, reported violent crime is down slightly or flat which could impact arrests a bit.

Crime reporting is also a consideration with only 41 percent of violent crimes reported. It’s much less for property crimes per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Beyond crime and crime reporting, the question is whether law enforcement is being browbeaten into fewer arrests, or cops are refusing to be proactive because of intense criticism, or law enforcement sees few consequences for those arrested?

COVID will inevitably play a part in 2020.

Do Fewer Arrests Mean More Violence?

Violence for 2020 in cities is up considerably. People and businesses are fleeing. Insurance companies are paying out record amounts for protests-riots. Fear of crime is at very high levels, Crime in The US.

If arrests from past years are a barometer for today, are the lack of arrests is contributing to today’s conditions?

Considering the intense criticism and scrutiny of cops, officers are sometimes reluctant to do anything that could land them on the front page of newspapers.

Juvenile Arrests

The Office Of Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) released “Juvenile Arrests, 2017.” 

This bulletin documents recent trends in juvenile arrests using data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

Overall, juvenile arrests have declined for more than a decade, but patterns vary by demographic group and offense.

Findings show that in 2017, law enforcement agencies arrested more than 809,700 persons younger than 18 years old. This was the lowest number since at least 1980—and 70 percent below its 1996 peak of nearly 2.7 million.

The juvenile arrest rate for aggravated assault declined in the last 5 years, the robbery arrest rate stayed about the same, and the murder arrest rate increased annually since 2012.

Juvenile arrest rates for property crimes have declined in recent years. By 2017, juvenile arrest rates for larceny-theft, burglary, and arson were at their lowest levels since at least 1980, while rates for motor vehicle theft increased annually since 2013.

The violent crime arrest rate for older juveniles (ages 15 to 17) was lower than the rates for young adults (ages 18 to 20 and 21 to 24).

Male and female juvenile arrest rates have declined in the last 10 years; however, the relative declines have been greater for males than for females across many offenses. As a result, the female share of juvenile arrests has grown since 1980.

Juvenile arrest rates involving violent crimes (such as murder and robbery) tend to be much higher for black youth than for white youth. Conversely, arrest rates for liquor law violations were higher for American Indian and white youth than black youth.


Department of Justice

Juvenile Arrests
Juvenile Arrests

Adult Arrests:

National Arrests Decline By 22 Percent-FBI

Total arrests in the United States are down 21.9 percent from 2009 to 2018.

Source: FBI-Arrests

US Arrests Decline By 25 Percent

Vera created a tool that analyzes arrest trends between 1980 and 2016. The data shows that overall arrests have declined by nearly 25 percent over the last decade.

Source: The Intercept.

Police Initiated Contacts Fall By 9 Million

The portion of U.S. residents age 16 or older who had experienced contact with the police in the preceding 12 months declined from 26 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced.

The number of residents who had experienced contact with police dropped by more than 9 million people, from 62.9 million to 53.5 million during the period.

From 2011 to 2015, the number of persons who had contact that was police-initiated fell by 8 million, and the number of persons who initiated contact with police fell by 6 million.

Among those who had contact with police, two percent experienced a nonfatal threat or use of force by police.

Source: Police Contacts

Lower Level Arrests Declining

The Wall Street Journal offered, “Arrests for Low-Level Crimes Are Plummeting, and the Experts Are Flummoxed.”


There are time lags in the data which makes it difficult to examine today’s trends. Regardless, I believe that arrests are currently down for a variety of reasons, including protests, riots and COVID in 2020.

We are aware that cops are not being proactive in cities where police officers are being heavily criticized.

There is data indicating that police officers are making fewer arrests and public contacts.

There are cities where violence (especially homicides) is exploding.

Concurrently, there are surveys indicating that cops are reluctant to be proactive or aggressive as to stops. Data from the US Department of Justice indicates that proactive policing reduces crime, Police Strategies.

Beyond the headlines, a majority of fragile-community residents (54%) say they would like the police to spend more time in their community, while just 5% say they would like the police to spend less time there, High Crime Residents. The presumption is that citizens want proactivity from law enforcement.

Violent crime increased by 28 percent since 2015 per the National Crime Survey. Documented increases also include Gallup (violence tripled) and additional sources, Crime in the US.

As I write this, the crisis of confidence within American law enforcement is considerable. But with increasing violence in a wide variety of cities, we may have more on our hands than protests and a reexamination of police-community relations.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

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Contact us at leonardsipes@gmail.com.

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Author information

Leonard Sipes

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Aspiring drummer.

Contact: leonardsipes@gmail.com.

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