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Law Enforcement & Juvenile Crime
Age-specific Arrest Rate Trends
Q: What is the trend for age-specific arrest rates for drug law violations?
A: Across adult age groups, drug abuse violation arrest rates were higher in 2020 than in 1980, but were lower for juvenile ages 13 to 17.
Note: 2020 was the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, which may have impacted policies, procedures, and data collection activities. Additionally, stay-at-home orders likely impacted the volume and type of law-violating behavior that came to the attention of law enforcement in 2020.

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  • The peak year for juvenile drug abuse violation arrest rates was 1997. Between 1980 and 1997, arrest rates doubled on average for youth ages 15-17, as did arrest rates for adults ages 18-24. By comparison, rates for adults ages 30-34 tripled and rates for those ages 40-44 increased by a factor of 7.
  • Between 1997 and 2020, drug abuse violation arrest rates declined for juveniles and most adults. For example, the rate fell 82% for youth ages 15-17, compared with 64% for adults ages 18-20 and 47% for adults age 21-24.
  • Overall from 1980 to 2020, the drug abuse violation arrest rate for youth ages 15-17 decreased 64%, compared with a 21% decrease for young adults ages 18-20 and a 7% increase for young adults ages 21-24. For adults ages 30 and older, age-specific rates in 2020 were 3 to 7 times higher than the rates in 1980.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/qa05308.asp?qaDate=2020. Released on July 08, 2022.

Data source: Arrest estimates for 1980-2014 developed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and disseminated through "Arrest Data Analysis Tool." Online. Available from the BJS website.

Arrest estimates for 2020 developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice based on the FBI’s 2020 Arrest Master File of 12-month reporting departments available from the Crime Data Explorer (https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/pages/downloads, retrieved June 14, 2022).


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