Every year crime statistics are complied into a yearly crime index by the FBI in which analysts study numbers and make educated guesses on the continual outlook for specific crimes. The FBI reports that from 1990 to 1995, the crime rate declined slowly within the categories of murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, and theft. Sociologists debate reasoning why these numbers illustrate this, however they seem to believe that age and the influence of one’s family and neighborhood are major causes for the crime decrease. Another key point made by a variety of experts is that crime rates for other crimes are still higher than they were in the mid-80s. Why are these crimes most affected?
James Alan Fox, dean of the Northeastern University Criminal Justice college commented within a enotes.com article, that he believes that the recent drop in crime rates is only for the present time. “The reason for the current decrease in crime is the demographic dip in the number of teenage and young adult males (ages fourteen to twenty-five), the part of the population most likely to commit crimes.” Fox also adds that the overall rate has decreased, while the population of teenage boys continues to grow and the majority of their crimes are continuously more violent than those committed by other generations. “As the numbers of teenaged males increase in the near future (a demographic certainty), he predicts, the crime rate will naturally return to previous levels and will possibly climb even higher.”
In a 2000 report released by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice entitled “Dispelling the Myth: An analysis of Youth and Adult Crime Patterns in California,” youth crime numbers were analyzed and a variety of conclusions were made. Most importantly, the authors of the reports concluded that youth crime is falling at a faster rate than that of adult crime rate. Their argument included that this was occurring even though teenage population numbers were continuously rising. Specifically in California, juvenile felony arrest rates (according to the report) have declined by more than 40 percent since 1980. Compared to the adult arrest rates that have risen repeatedly.
The biggest argument lies in the analysis of numbers from the mid to late 1970s. Although their juvenile population rose by 500,000 young adults in the mid to late ’70s, teenagers made up for less than 15 percent of arrests in 1998 when compared to 1978, their rate was 30 percent. These findings debunk the belief that today’s teens are more criminal than past generations, said Dan Macallair, associate director of JPI and co-author of the report. Youth crime is falling even while the teenage population is rising. This report also discovered that CA homicide arrest rates in the late 1990s have remained constant since the 1970s. The declination of crime rates during the ’90s occurred while the population was continuously rising.
Some other interesting findings include that juveniles contribute to nearly 16.7 percent of violent crimes, but only 12.1 percent of those crimes are actually cleared by arrest. This adds to the claim that a teenager is more than three times likely to be arrested for a felony than a middle-aged adult (age 30-49) in the late 1970s. In the present times, the two populations groups have the same arrest odds.
While violent crime rates have increased among all CA age groups, young adults have shown the smallest increases and adults aged 30+ make up for the biggest increase in their crime rate. The imprisonment rate for people over 30 is skyrocketing – up 15 fold in last 20 years. said Mike Males, a Sociology instructor at UC Santa Cruz and co-author of the report. The juvenile court has been accused of failing to control crime, but serious juvenile crime has been declining for 20 years. It is really the adult criminal court failing to control crime. The current crime trends among youth indicates declining crime rates into the next century. This report dispels the pervasive beliefs about the scope and degree of youth crime,” he said.
Also included in the enotes article mentioned earlier is John J. Di – Julio Jr., a Princeton University professor that argues the problem is determined by much more than just the population of teenaged boys. He believes the moral poverty of society has the biggest impact on these crime numbers. “It is the moral poverty in which the next generation of adolescents is being raised that is ill for the nation’s crime rates. Moral poverty is ‘the poverty of growing up surrounded by deviant, delinquent, and criminal adults in abusive, violence-ridden, fatherless, Godless, and jobless settings.'” He continues to explain that research shows that a small number of criminals are responsible for almost half of teenage crime rates.
Di – Julio continues with the fact that each generation of this group of young offenders is approximately more violent and dangerous by nearly three times. This point is very taken, considering the constant rise of school violence in school until the present day. DiIulio believes that each generations grows up “in more extreme conditions of moral poverty than the one before it.” This atmosphere brings about a more deviant group of juvenile predators.
“Today’s criminals are frightening because they have never learned right from wrong, they have no concept of the relationship between present actions and future consequences, and they place no value on the lives of others. But tomorrow’s “superpredators” are destined to be worse, he contends, because they are being raised in the fatherless families and drug- and violence-ridden neighborhoods created by today’s criminals. And due to current population trends, he adds, there will be more of these juvenile criminals in the near future,” he concluded.
In a March 2006 article by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the idea of “super-predators” (mentioned earlier by Di – Julio), was analyzed in greater depth as being described as a generation of brutal teens who were going to take over the nation. However, this conclusion was unbelievably wrong and criminologists are trying to figure out why. Why were they so wrong and why are Americans experiencing the sharpest decline in teen crime ever?
Besides the rise in school violence in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the Justice Department says that schools are as safe they were in the 1960s. They report that juvenile homicide arrests are down from approximately 3,800 to less than 1,000 and a handful of them occur in schools. “Kids now are less violent than you were,” James Rieland, the director of juvenile court services in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County. He believes that because of the increase in school safety, drug prevention and drug treatment after-care programs, crime rates are beginning to lower.
Criminologists, as mentioned in the article, believe that the peace started in the mid ’90s. They hope that this trend will prolong and crime rates will continue to decline just as much as I do. With this continuous drop in crime rates, it seems there is hope for the youth of America.
With continual rises in violence throughout the world, teenagers can expect to have to protect themselves and their families more often in the current conditions.
However, parents need to teach children the proper way to deal with underlying situations that may cause one to choose to commit crime. Just like most things, the attitude towards crime starts in the home, and by creating a positive mind set early on, a child may be given the hope he needs to survive in this cruel world we live in the present day.