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Law Enforcement & Juvenile Crime
Youth Arrests
Q: How many arrests are made of persons under age 18?
A: In 2020, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made an estimated 424,300 arrests of persons under age 18, 71% less than the number of arrests in 2011.

Estimated number of juvenile arrests, 2020

Most serious offense Number of
Percent change
2011-2020 2016-2020 2019-2020
All offenses424,300-71%-50%-38%
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter93011%9%-0%
Aggravated assault19,140-53%-32%-29%
Motor vehicle theft11,660-17%-26%-13%
Simple assault70,940-63%-45%-43%
Forgery and counterfeiting470-70%-62%-45%
Stolen property (buying, receiving, possessing)8,190-38%-25%-8%
Weapons (carrying, possessing, etc.)11,110-61%-42%-30%
Prostitution and commercialized vice110-89%-78%-62%
Sex offenses (except rape & prostitution)NANANANA
Drug abuse violations42,280-72%-57%-47%
Offenses against the family and children2,420-32%-34%-22%
Driving under the influence5,870-42%-9%5%
Liquor laws17,910-80%-51%-32%
Disorderly conduct24,720-82%-62%-54%
All other offenses (except traffic)85,970-68%-44%-38%
Curfew and loitering11,680-85%-66%-20%
Violent Crime IndexNANANANA
Property Crime Index74,680-78%-59%-37%
Violent crimes*32,070-51%-33%-26%

Violent Crime Index includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Property Crime Index includes, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

NA: Beginning in 2013, the FBI broadened the definition of rape, removing the phrase “forcible” from the offense name and description. The new definition of rape is: Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. The new definition includes the NIBRS offenses of rape, sodomy, and sexual assault with an object.

Law enforcement agencies may submit data on rape arrests based on either the new or legacy definition of rape. Due to differences in agency reporting practices, national estimates for the offenses of “rape” and “sex offenses” are not available after 2012. Additionally, estimates for the Violent Crime Index (which included “forcible rape”) are not shown after 2012 as this category is no longer compatible with prior years.

*The violent crimes category includes the offenses of murder, robbery, and aggravated assault and is presented as an alternative to the Violent Crime Index, which is not available as a result of the change to the definition of rape in 2013. In any given year prior to the change in the rape definition, these three offenses accounted for more than 95% of arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses.

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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Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/qa05101.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 the Arrest Data Analysis Tool.

Arrest estimates for 2016 and 2019 were revised by the National Center for Juvenile Justice in June 2022 based on the FBI’s annual Arrest Master Files of 12-month reporting departments available from the Crime Data Explorer (https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/pages/downloads, retrieved June 14, 2022). Estimates for 2020 are based on the FBI's 2020 Arrest Master File of 12-month reporting departments.


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