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California teenagers: No longer “crime prone”

Source: CJSC

The Criminal Justice Statistics Center’s just-released Crime in California 2013 report reveals the latest phase in an astonishing revolution in recent decades, as the state’s teenage population grew by 1.3 million and transitioned from 60 percent white to 72 percent non-white:

  • In 1980, a California teenager was 10.3 times more likely to be arrested than a California middle-ager. In 2013, teenage crime rates were just 1.4 times those of middle-agers; at equivalent poverty levels, teenage crime rates are now below those of middle-agers (Figure).
  • In 1980, the teenage arrest volume was six times the middle-aged arrest volume. In 2013, the middle-aged arrest volume was more than double that of teenagers (Table 1).
  • In 1980, teenagers comprised 40% of felony and 24% of misdemeanor arrests. In 2013, 13% and 13%, respectively.
  • In 1980, those over 40 comprised 7% of arrests. In 2013, 26%.
Felony arrest table

*2013 versus 1980, adjusted for population changes in each age group. Source: CJSC.

A similarly dramatic pattern emerges for violent crimes (Table 2): In 1980, teenagers accounted for one-third of violent crimes; today, less than one-sixth; older generations are now the problem. The drop has been especially large for homicide (941 teenage arrests in 1980, 256 in 2013) and rape (1,161 in 1980, 247 in 2013). While rape remains underreported, victimization surveys show rape is more reported today than in the past.

*2013 versus 1980, adjusted for population changes in each age group. Source: CJSC

Similar, less spectacular youth crime trends occurring nationwide are treated as threats to the care and funding of America’s dinosaur crime establishment, which remains heavily dependent on scapegoats and desperately needs more perceived youth crime and fear. Since it’s no longer safe in mainstream circles to demonize opium-denned Chinese, black cocaine fiends, savage tribal Mexicans, or inner-city crack “animals,” youth are all that’s left.

As youth crime plummets, many postings on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, which purportedly favors evidence-based analysis, continue to resemble tabloid splashes from 1990, or even 1910: context-free exclamations on “youth violence,” self-superior diatribes branding teenagers “stupid,” biodeterminist ridiculings of the “teenage brain,” and program-panacea mentality. Major media, led by CNN, Associated Press, and Fox News fabricate crises of “’tween shootings,” “more violent young rapists,” and “knockout games” to frighten and titillate their aging constituencies. A White House popularizing itself with crusades blaming students for rape is inconvenienced by the mammoth shift in sexual violence to older ages.

Everyone needs those pre-1995 days back. It’s a real problem that today’s teenagers have by far the lowest crime rate ever recorded in statistics going back six decades, one requiring extraordinary high-level distortions to cover up.

In a sane culture, the gigantic plunge in youth crime involving all races, genders, and jurisdictions, and the surge in middle-aged crime heaviest among white, non-Latino men, would be receiving intense research and official interest. These are unexpected, complex trends. Opportunistic credit-grabbing and favored-strategy praise are not warranted: far fewer youth are in prisons, jails, and budget-cut programs today. Leaders who claim the youth crime drop must also own the middle-aged crime explosion.

America’s crime establishment needs to climb out of the muck of 19th century demographic scapegoating and biodeterminist junk and put on its new-thinking cap.

Keywords: crime trends, youth

Posted in Blog, Juvenile Justice

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