National Statistics on Juvenile Offenders and Victims

OJJDP's Research Division monitors trends regarding juvenile victims and offenders, including self-reported offending and official statistics on juvenile offenses, juvenile arrests, juvenile offenders, and juvenile victims. Working with other branches of the U.S. Department of Justice (e.g., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation) and other government agencies (e.g., Bureau of the Census, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bureau of Labor Statistics), the Research Division gathers information that offers the most complete look at the nature and extent of juvenile delinquency and victimization in the United States. The Research Division also produces Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, which distills the most requested information about juvenile crime and victimization into a user-friendly format. This Report and its 1997 update are available by calling 800-638-8736. The 1999 National Report will be available in fall 1999. To help gather and manage this information, the Research Division supports the following:

  • The National Juvenile Court Data Archive. The archive collects, stores, and analyzes data about youth referred to U.S. courts for delinquency and status offenses. OJJDP Fact Sheets and Bulletins about these data inform the field on a regular basis of trends and their implications for the juvenile justice system.

  • Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP). Conducted for the first time in fall 1997, CJRP collects detailed information on youth in juvenile residential placement facilities as a result of contact with the juvenile justice system. Examples of the type of information CJRP collects include characteristics of juveniles in the facilities (date of birth, race, sex, and most serious offense), court of jurisdiction (juvenile or criminal court), adjudicatory status (preadjudication or postadjudication), and the State or county that has jurisdiction over the juvenile. OJJDP and the Bureau of the Census developed CJRP to more accurately represent the number of juveniles in placement and to describe the reasons for their placement. The new census is expected to result in more accurate, timely, and useful data on the juvenile population, with less reporting burden for facility respondents.

Projects currently in development include:

  • The Survey of Youth in Residential Placement. This survey will examine the characteristics of juveniles placed out of the home because of contact with the justice system, including their demographic makeup and offense history. It will also examine risk and protective factors encountered by these individuals and their experiences in custody. OJJDP anticipates a 2-year development phase with the first full implementation of the survey in 2001. This will be the first time that researchers will collect individual-level data directly from a national sample of juveniles in placement.

  • The Juvenile Residential Facility Census. OJJDP is creating a census of juvenile facilities that will provide important information on how these facilities function. Although still in development, the census is expected to cover security arrangements, health services, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, education opportunities and resources, and facility capacity. The Bureau of the Census initiated a feasibility test of this project in October 1998. The first full implementation will take place in October 2000.

  • The Juvenile Probation Survey. OJJDP is developing a survey of juvenile probation that will complement the various censuses that deal with juvenile custody. Juvenile probation has rightly been described as the workhorse of the juvenile justice system. However, few data exist on the use of this sanction, and no data exist on the number of juveniles under probation at any one time. This new survey will fill that gap. OJJDP has entered into an agreement with the Bureau of the Census to develop the survey, which will be field tested in 2001.

What Have We Learned?

Some recent findings from the statistical activities described above offer a snapshot of juvenile crime and delinquency in the United States.

  • More than 2.8 million juvenile arrests were made for all types of offenses in 1997. Although this is a slight decrease from 1996 (-1 percent), this number is still an increase of 14 percent since 1993 and 35 percent since 1988. Juveniles were involved in 17 percent of all Violent Crime Index arrests and 35 percent of Property Crime Index arrests in 1997.

  • Juvenile violent crime is decreasing. After consistently increasing from 1985 to 1994, juvenile violent crime arrest rates (the number of juvenile arrests per 100,000 persons ages 10 to 17 in the population) declined 23 percent from 1994 to 1997. The decline between 1996 and 1997 was 13 percent.

  • Among all violent crimes, the juvenile arrest rate for murder has shown both the greatest increase and the greatest decline during the period of 1988 to 1997. After more than doubling between 1987 and 1993, the juvenile arrest rate for murder dropped substantially (40 percent) between 1993 and 1997. Between 1996 and 1997 alone, it dropped 16 percent.

  • All growth in homicide offending between 1987 and 1994 was firearm related, as were the declines in 1995 and 1996. Between 1987 and 1994, the number of juvenile homicide offenses involving a firearm grew nearly 200 percent. In contrast, the number of homicide offenses involving other weapon types increased 10 percent. After more than a decade of increases, juvenile homicide offenses dropped substantially (30 percent) between 1994 and 1996. Nearly all of this decline occurred in homicides committed with firearms.

  • In 1996, courts with juvenile jurisdiction disposed more than 1.8 million delinquency cases. This is a 3-percent increase from 1995 and a 49-percent increase from 1987. In 1996, the majority of cases (86 percent) handled in juvenile court were referred by law enforcement.

  • Younger juveniles account for a substantial proportion of juvenile arrests and the juvenile court caseload. About one-third of juveniles arrested in 1997 were under the age of 15. The proportion of juvenile arrests involving younger juveniles (under age 15) was highest for arson (67 percent), followed by sex offenses (51 percent), vandalism (45 percent), and larceny-theft (42 percent). Of all delinquency cases processed by the Nation's juvenile courts in 1996, 59 percent involved juveniles younger than 16.

  • Female delinquency has grown substantially. In 1997, 26 percent of juveniles arrested were girls. Between 1993 and 1997, arrests of juvenile females increased more than male arrests in most offense categories. The number of juvenile court delinquency cases involving females increased 76 percent between 1987 and 1996; cases involving males increased 42 percent during the same period.

  • The number of juveniles in public facilities has sharply increased since the early 1980's. The 1-day count of juveniles held in public facilities rose 47 percent between 1983 and 1995. During this time, the number of juveniles held for violent offenses doubled, as did the number of juveniles for person offenses. Preliminary data from the 1997 CJRP, which replaced the old Children in Custody series, counted 105,790 juvenile offenders in public and private facilities.

  • Crowding is a serious problem in juvenile facilities. A study of the conditions of confinement between 1987 and 1991 in U.S. juvenile detention and correctional facilities found that institutional crowding was pervasive. More than 75 percent of juveniles were housed in facilities that violated one or more standards related to living space. The study also found that crowding was associated with higher rates of institutional violence, suicidal behavior, and greater reliance on the use of short-term isolation.

  • Minority juveniles are greatly overrepresented in the custody population. Of juveniles held in juvenile residential facilities in 1997, 37 percent were white, non-Hispanic, and 63 percent were from minority groups. This is quite different from the court population, in which whites accounted for 64 percent of delinquency referrals. The 1997 CJRP reported a similar breakdown in population: 37 percent white, 40 percent African-American, 19 percent Hispanic, and the remainder American Indian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islanders.

What Does This Mean?

  • Even with the recent declines, juvenile crime is still too high. Despite the decreases in recent years, the juvenile arrest rate in 1997 was still 35 percent higher than in 1988. The arrest rate for juvenile violent crime was 49 percent higher in 1997 than in 1988. Juvenile crime and delinquency continue to be serious problems in the United States.

  • Special focus must be placed on young and female offenders. These two groups are accounting for a greater proportion of the delinquency population than ever before. The unique factors that contribute to their increased involvement in crime need to be examined, and effective interventions need to be put in place and tested.

  • Although prior research has found that overcrowding and disproportionate minority confinement are serious issues, much is still unknown. To understand where to focus resources, it is important to learn about the characteristics and needs of juveniles in custody. To date, most information gathered about juveniles in residential facilities is gathered from the facilities themselves. OJJDP's Survey of Youth in Residential Placement will gather individual-level data from juveniles themselves. In addition, the Juvenile Residential Facility Census will gather information about programs and services offered by residential facilities around the country.

Selective Bibliography of National Statistics on Juvenile Offenders and Victims

Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1991-1995.3

Easy Access to the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Report 1980-1996.

Easy Access to Juvenile Court Statistics 1987-1996.

Gallagher, C.A. 1999. Juvenile Offenders in Residential Placement, 1997. Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Hsia, H.M., and Hamparian, D. 1998. Disproportionate Minority Confinement: 1997 Update. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Moone, J. 1998. Counting What Counts: The Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Fact Sheet #74. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ). 1999. OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. (Available at

Puzzanchera, C.M. 1998. The Youngest Offenders, 1996. Fact Sheet #87. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Sickmund, M., Snyder, H.N., and Poe-Yamagata, E. 1997. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Snyder, H.N. 1998. Juvenile Arrests 1997. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Stahl, A.L. 1999. Delinquency Cases in Juvenile Courts, 1996. Fact Sheet #109. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Stahl, A.L. 1998. Juvenile Vandalism, 1996. Fact Sheet #85. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

3Easy Access is a family of software packages developed for OJJDP by the National Center for Juvenile Justice. The packages can be downloaded from OJJDP's Web site at

OJJDP Research: Making a Difference for Juveniles August 1999