While the Canadian juvenile violent crime arrest rate is half the U.S. rate, the property crime rate is similar


In 1994 the juvenile arrest rate for violent crime was much higher in the U.S. than in Canada

In 1994 there were 3.2 million persons ages 10 through 17 in Canada, one-ninth the juvenile population of the U.S. Controlling for these population differences, juveniles in the U.S. in 1994 were arrested at twice the Canadian rate for a violent crime. More discrepant, the U.S. juvenile murder arrest rate in 1994 was more than 6 times the Canadian rate.


Over the past 10 years the relative difference between the U.S. and Canadian juvenile violent crime arrest rates has been diminishing. In 1986, for example, the U.S. rate was nearly three times the Canadian rate.

In 1994 the U.S. and Canadian juvenile property crime arrest rates were relatively similar

In 1994 the juvenile property crime arrest rate in the U.S. was one-third greater than the Canadian rate, although there were differences within offenses. While the U.S. arrest rate for larceny-theft was 70% above the Canadian rate, Canadian youth were arrested at a 30% higher rate than juveniles in the U.S for burglary.

Juvenile courts in the U.S. handle a greater proportion of cases informally than in Canada


In both Canada and the U.S. the largest portion of the juvenile court's workload is property offense cases. In 1994 while the juvenile property crime arrest rate in Canada was below the U.S. rate, the Canadian juvenile court formally processed property cases at a greater rate than did U.S. juvenile courts. The pattern reflects greater use of diversion in U.S. juvenile courts.

Differences in the use of diversion are also reflected in the rates of formally processed person offense cases. While the U.S. arrest rate for person offenses was nearly double the Canadian rate in 1994, the courts in each country formally processed about the same number of person cases (709 vs. 662) for every 100,000 juveniles in their resident population.

Canadian and U.S. juvenile courts respond similarly to youth adjudicated for a person offense

In 1994 Canadian juvenile courts adjudicated youth delinquent in 65% of all formally processed person offense cases, compared with 54% in the U.S. Once these cases were adjudicated, however, the courts' responses were comparable in the U.S. and Canada. In both countries, about 3 in 10 adjudicated person offenders were placed out of the home, with most of the remaining youth placed on probation.

Formal handling of person offense cases increased more in Canada than in the U.S.

Between 1986 and 1994 the rate of formally processed person offense cases (formal cases per 100,000 juveniles in the resident population) in U.S. juvenile courts increased 80%, while it increased 250% in Canada.


U.S. juvenile courts transfer cases to a criminal court at 11 times the Canadian rate

In the U.S., juveniles may be transferred to a criminal court by order of a juvenile court judge, at the discretion of a prosecutor, or by legislative mandate. Canada has only one of these paths to criminal court -- transfer by a juvenile court judge.

U.S. juvenile court judges transferred juveniles at 11 times the rate of Canadian judges. While this comparison captures all Canadian transfers to criminal court, it only includes the relatively small number of U.S. transfers that are under the control of a juvenile court judge. Currently, there are no hard data on the volume of juveniles who are transferred to criminal courts in the U.S. through prosecutorial discretion or legislative exclusion. However, if all U.S. transfers of juveniles to criminal court were counted, the discrepancy between the rates of juvenile transfers to criminal court in Canada and in the U.S. would be substantially greater than the 11 to 1 ratio.

In 1994, 65% of youth transferred to criminal court in Canada were charged with a person offense; 24% were charged with a property offense. Less than 1% of all youth transferred in Canada were charged with a drug offense. In contrast, 11% of youth judicially waived in the U.S. in 1994 were charged with a drug offense. Compared to Canada, person offense cases in the U.S made up a smaller proportion of all judicially transferred cases (44%) and property offense cases a larger proportion (37%).

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence