Juvenile Offenders and the Increase of Violent Crimes Committed
Dealing with criminal behaviors among children is one of the most difficult aspects in criminal justice. In the earlier years, juvenile crimes were rare and only occurred in isolated cases. However, with modernization, the rates of juvenile crimes have been increasing. This has reached the level where children are increasingly being involved in violent crimes such as robbery. The escalation of juvenile crimes led to the proposal in various states to institute a juvenile justice system since the children who engaged in criminal activities also needed to be punished for their crimes. Juvenile crime can be described as either early onset or late onset behavior (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001). Those who begin to develop criminal behaviors in early child hood are referred to as those with the early onset tendency. They are bound t o engage in serious crimes by the time they reach 16 or 17 years of age. On the other hand, those with late onset tendencies are more likely to engage in criminal activities past their teenage years.
Although the onset of criminal behavior is different among different people, it is reported that the peak age of onset is at 16 years of age. It is also reported that boys are more likely to engage in criminal activity than girls. The rates of criminal offenses are also different across different groups of individuals in the juvenile category. There are those juveniles who commit crimes intermittently over a prolonged period and those who commit crimes frequently over a short period of time. In the recent years, the trends in juvenile criminal behavior have been surprising. For instance, there has been significant increase in the rate at which juveniles engage in violent crimes. Similarly, the rates of juvenile arrests over criminal behaviors have also increased significantly, especially after the 1980s.
Most of the children that have been arrested for violent crimes in the past have mostly indicated that they had faced certain levels of instability during their childhood. For instance, it is reported that children were more likely to engage in crime if they experienced cases of neglect and/ or abuse in their earlier years. Children from Hispanic and Black American families also reported significant levels of involvement in crime in comparison to children from other ethnicities. The reports also show that most of the criminal activities perpetrated by the children were carried out during off school hours. The involvement of child offenders in homicide cases has risen significantly. In the year 2010 alone, juvenile involvement in homicide comprised of 8 percent of the total number of homicides reported. The rise in the reported crimes from 1970s to the 1980s led to increased arrests followed by a season of relative stability between 1980 and 1992.
The rise in Juvenile crime began again in 1988 and escalated from there henceforth. Between 1988 and 1991 alone, the rise in the rate of juvenile crimes was by 38 percent (Snyder and Sickmund, 1996). The rise in crimes cannot be linked directly to a rise in the number of juvenile murder cases. 2002 reported the lowest number of juvenile murders in years. The increase in juvenile criminal behaviors can be linked to various factors. The use of drugs, engagement in gangs, weak juvenile justice structures and exposure to crime and violence in various media have all been recognized to result in greater rates of juvenile criminal behaviors.
Office of the Surgeon General (2001) The Developmental Dynamics of Youth Violence. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44294/
Snyder, H.N. & Sickmund, M. (1996) Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.
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