The number of young people – aged 0 to 17 – arrested by police in the United States for committing violent crimes (murders, homicides, robberies with violence, etc.) is still in decline since the year 2000. During 2020, the number of arrests for violent crimes committed by juveniles reached a new low, 78% below the 1994 peak, and half the number of ten years earlier.
Males accounted for 80% of all arrests of juveniles for violent crimes in 2020, but their share of arrests for murder (92%) and robbery (88%) was much higher.
The 16-17 age group accounted for more than half (55%) of all youths arrested, but for the crime of murder they accounted for 76% of all arrests.
White youths accounted for nearly half (49%) of all juvenile arrests and 57% of juvenile arrests for serious assaults.
During 2020, there were an estimated 424,300 arrests of persons under the age of 18, 38% less than the corresponding figure for 2019 and half the number of arrests than 5 years earlier.
Overall, arrests of persons under the age of 18 accounted for 7% of all violent crime arrests, a decrease of 7 percentage points from 2019, which was 14%.
During 2020, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 accounted for 19% of all arrests and 21% of arrests for violent crimes.
Although juvenile arrests for robbery and assault have been on the decline, arrests for murder have increased since the low point had been reached in 2012. That being said, the number of arrests for violent crimes involving young people decreased by 56% between 2010 and 2020. The smallest decrease was in robberies, which shows a decrease of 24%, while among adults the decrease was 5%. And juvenile arrests for serious assaults fell by 29%, while adult arrests increased by about 1%.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the year 2020 was the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and it should also be emphasised that a single offence may entail the arrest of more than one person. The latter may have affected data collection policies, procedures and situations, where many arrests resulting from a single offence are relatively common.
In addition, stay-at-home orders and school closings likely prevented increases in juvenile law-breaking behaviour. For these reasons, the numbers of arrests should be put into context and not draw the attention of law enforcement agencies to the year 2020.
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