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The Plummeting Arrest Rates of California's Children

A new research report by CJCJ’s Mike Males documents a pronounced decline in arrests of California’s children over the past 30 years. The absence of specific, statewide policy aimed at reducing the arrest of children, coupled with favorable trends in youth issues suggest the decrease in childhood arrests may reflect a real decrease in child crime, rather than a shift in arrest practices.

Sources: CJSC (2014); DRU (2014).

Key findings:

  • In 1978, nearly 14,000 children under age 12 were arrested, 4,400 of whom were under age 10. But in 2013, with a pre-teen population 40 percent larger, arrests for children under 12 fell to 1,394, and arrests of children under 10 fell to 219 — leading to a 92 percent drop in arrest rates.
  • Forty-seven of the 58 counties (including all major ones) experienced dramatic drops in child arrests between 1980 and 2013. In Los Angeles County, the number of arrests of children under 10 dropped from 485 to 17; in Fresno County, from 132 to four; and in Alameda 321 to six.
  • The decline in youth arrests is in striking contrast to arrests of older ages: While people under age 25 experienced large declines in felony arrests, those ages 25-29 saw a modest increase, and those ages 30 and older saw large increases.
  • A supplemental report reveals one exceptions to California’s decline in child arrests: Stockton, which along with the city of San Bernardino allows school district officers to arrest students and have arrest rates 24 times higher than the rest of California. Stockton, with one percent of California’s youth under age 10, now accounts for 26 percent of the state’s arrests of children that age.

The dramatic and sustained declines in child arrests, combined with other positive youth outcomes, provide California the opportunity to research what lies behind the trends, adjust youth crime forecasts, and reexamine investments in new juvenile facilities.

Read the full report > >

Read the supplemental Stockton, San Bernardino report > > 

Please note: Each year, every county submits their data to the official statewide databases maintained by appointed governmental bodies. While every effort is made to review data for accuracy and to correct information upon revision, CJCJ cannot be responsible for data reporting errors made at the county, state, or national level.

Contact: cjcjmedia@cjcj.org, (415) 621-5661 x. 124, www.cjcj.org

Keywords: arrests, children, crime trends, Juvenile justice, Mike Males, San Bernardino, Stockton

Posted in Publications, Juvenile Justice

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