Juvenile Crime - The Crimes—court Statistics
percent delinquency court figure
The OJJDP publishes statistics on juvenile court cases (Juvenile Court Statistics, 1999, Washington, D.C., 2003) and on juvenile cases sent for trial in adult criminal court. The OJJDP categorizes juvenile crimes in two ways:
- Delinquency offenses—acts that are illegal regardless of the age of the perpetrator
- Status offenses—acts that are illegal only for minors, such as truancy, running away, or curfew violations
Juvenile courts handled 1.6 million delinquency cases in 2000, some 9 percent less than in 1996 but 43 percent higher than the level of caseloads in 1985. (See Table 5.4.) A case can include more than one charge. For example, a youth brought on three different robbery charges at the same time is counted as one case. Since 1960 the juvenile court caseload increased over 400 percent, from 1,100 delinquency cases on a given day in 1960 to 4,500 in 2000. (See Figure 5.20.)
Juvenile courts take delinquency cases referred by law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, schools, parents, probation officers, or victims. In 2000 law enforcement agencies referred 84 percent of delinquency cases to juvenile court. Property offenses were referred to juvenile court most frequently, followed by person offenses, drug offenses, and public order offenses. (See Figure 5.21.) Of all juveniles taken into custody for delinquency by law enforcement agencies in 2000, over 66 percent were referred to juvenile court jurisdiction, 33 percent were handled in the police department and released, and 1 percent of juveniles arrested were referred directly to criminal (adult) court. Table 5.5 shows juvenile court processing for a typical 1,000 delinquency cases in 2000.
In 2000 property offenses made up about 41 percent of delinquency cases, with the most frequent charge being larceny-theft, which accounted for 18.5 percent of all delinquency cases handled in 2000. About 23 percent of delinquency cases involved an offense against persons. Public order offenses, such as disorderly conduct, weapons offenses, and liquor law violations, amounted to 24 percent. Drug law violations made up 11.8 percent of total cases, a 22 percent decrease since 1996.
While the number of delinquency cases rose 43 percent from 1985 to 2000, the increases varied by offense. Violent sex offenses, other than forcible rape, increased by 160 percent. Weapons violations increased 175 percent. Liquor law violations rose 103 percent, and nonviolent sex offenses were up 94 percent.
In 2000 delinquency case rates in juvenile court for drug use and public order offenses increased with the age of the juvenile, while case rates for property crimes peaked with juveniles 16 years of age. (See Figure 5.22.) Seventeen-year-olds had a much higher increase in case rates than did younger persons. Their case rate increase for drug offenses was three times the rate of 13-year-olds, while for property and person offenses, it was about twice as much for each.
A juvenile court may place youths in a detention facility during court processing. Detention may be needed either to protect the community from the juvenile, to protect the juvenile, or both. Also, detention is sometimes necessary to ensure a youth's appearance at scheduled hearings or evaluations.
In 1999 youths were held in detention facilities at some point between referral to court intake and case disposition (final outcome of court processing) in 20 percent of all delinquency cases disposed. Property offense cases were the least likely to involve detention (16 percent), and those involving drugs, person offenses, and public order (23 percent each) were the most likely to result in detention.
Between 1990 and 1999 the number of juveniles detained in drug cases increased by 62 percent. Those detained in person offense cases grew by 32 percent. Overall detained delinquency cases increased by 11 percent, adding to the problems of housing detained juveniles.
Male juveniles charged with a delinquency offense were more likely than females to be held in a secure facility while awaiting the disposition of their cases. In 1999, 21 percent of male juveniles and 16 percent of female juveniles were detained. This represents a 4 percent increase in male juvenile detainees from 1990 to 1999. The number of female juveniles detained increased by 50 percent. African-American juveniles were detained in 25 percent of delinquency cases, compared to 18 percent of whites in 1999.
No nationwide uniform procedure exists for processing juvenile cases, but cases do follow similar paths. An intake department first screens cases. The intake department can be the court itself, a state department of social services, or a prosecutor's office. The intake officer may decide that the case will be dismissed for lack of evidence, handled formally (petitioned), or resolved informally (non-petitioned). Formal processing can include placement outside the home, probation, a trial in juvenile court, or transfer to an adult court. Informal processing may consist of referral to a social services agency, a fine, some form of restitution, or informal probation. Both formal and informal processing can result in dismissal of the charges and release of the juvenile. Table 5.5 shows the processing of juvenile delinquency cases in 2000.
In 2000, 39 percent of delinquency cases were either adjudicated or waived to criminal court, up from 38 percent in 1999. (See Figure 5.23.) Some 58 percent of all delinquency cases were formally processed in 2000. Of the formally processed delinquency cases in 2000, 66 percent resulted in a finding of delinquency (the equivalent of a verdict of guilty in adult criminal court). About one percent of delinquency cases in 2000 resulted in a waiver (or transfer) of the juvenile to adult criminal court.
Between 1985 and 2000 the number of adjudicated delinquency cases resulting in formal probation rose 108 percent, those resulting in residential placement rose 49 percent, and those resulting in other sanctions, such as community service or restitution, rose by 84 percent. The number of cases dismissed (about 3 percent of the total) remained about the same for the entire time period. (See Figure 5.24.)