Timelines to the end of juvenile crime – and the vanishing risk of teenagers killing cops
Juvenile arrest rates from 1990-2015 have established clear trendlines that suggest the juvenile property crime rate could fall to zero in 2022 and the juvenile violent crime arrest rate could fall to zero in 2026. This might seem like an absurd extrapolation, but steeper arrest rate declines for young juveniles show that juvenile crime really could fall to a level astonishingly close to zero. From 1990-2015, the juvenile property crime arrest rate fell 76%, as the age 12 and under property crime arrest rate fell 90%, and the age 10 and under property crime arrest rate fell 96%. Compared to 1990, or to any year prior to 1990, arrest rates for young juveniles have already fallen to levels that are shockingly close to zero.
Research shows that the risk of later violent offending is greatest for juveniles first referred to juvenile court at a very young age, typically for non-violent crimes. Therefore, steeper declines in property crime arrest rates for young juveniles portend ongoing declines in violent crime arrest rates for older youths.
The decline in youth offending is also evident in FBI reports on Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA), showing the annual number of known offenders by age who feloniously killed an officer. From 1990-1994, the LEOKA reported an annual average of 12.6 juvenile offenders who killed an officer, from 1995-1999 the average was 7.6 juvenile offenders per year, in 2010-2014 the average was two juvenile offenders per year, and in 2015 there were zero known juvenile offenders who killed an officer. From 1990-1994, the LEOKA also reported an annual average of 33.8 known offenders ages 18-24 who killed an officer, from 1995-1999 the average was 28.2 offenders ages 18-25, in 2010-2014 the average was 16.2 offenders ages 18-25, and in 2015 there were four known offenders ages 18-24.
There are times when law enforcement officers have just seconds to make decisions about the danger posed by a criminal suspect. If the officer hesitates too long then the tragic result could be the felonious killing of one or more officers at the scene. If the officer is too quick to use lethal force then the tragic result could be the death of a suspect who did not pose a lethal danger to others, including cases where the victim is a boy with a toy gun. Decisions about lethal force should be informed in advance to the greatest extent possible, including broader awareness of just how much the criminal risk posed by youths has fallen since 1990.