Myths & Realities
n Myth 1: Today’s Youth are more criminal than ever
During the 1990s – arrests for index crime declined by 23% for those under 18
Arrests for violent crime for those under 18 declined by 14% from 1998 to 2007 (murder went down by 23%)
Some criminologists predicted an “explosion” of “superpredators” in the 1990s – it never happened
Study by Males, Macallair, and Corcoran in Calif. from 1980 and 2005 found large drops for juveniles but big increases for adults.
· Latest FBI Data Show a continuation in the decline in the past decade: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/table-32
· Here’s an excellent commentary on the subject: http://www.cjcj.org/news/7137
n Myth 2: As the number of teenagers rise so does the crime rate
· The proportion of teenagers in so-called “crime-prone years” has little to do with overall crime. In fact, quite often just the opposite is true.
· For example, homicides in Los Angeles in the late 1980s rose rapidly as the young male population decreased.
n Myth 3: Youth of today are using more guns and committing more violent crime than ever.
· As noted in the above-referenced FBI report juvenile arrests for violent crime and weapons possession has declined - weapons possession dropped by 50%
· During a ten-year period from 1999 to 2008, arrests rates for violent crime among juveniles went down by about 9% (a more modest decline after a one-third decline between 1994 and 2004), led by a drop of 27% for murder. Arrests for possession of weapons dropped by about 2% during this time; from 2006 to 2015 violent crime arrests dropped by 47%
· Juveniles are far more likely to be killed by their own parents at home than killed by one of their peers at school by a ratio of 15 to 1
· A related myth is that the rise of “gangsta rap” has caused a rise in homicides by youth. Quite the opposite is true, as throughout the 1990s the number of rap music albums sold doubled (from 74 million to 125 million), while the number of teenage males arrested for murder decreased by half.
n Myth 4: Teenagers are the biggest part of the drug problem.
· Between 1995 and 1996, for instance, only 3.7 percent of all drug emergency cases in the nation’s hospitals were under 18, while this age group accounted to merely one percent of drug-related deaths; in 2002 they constituted 9.5%.
· In 2007, people under the age of 18 accounted for 6.3% (the lowest percentage of those aged 12 or older) of all illicit drug emergency cases in the nation’s hospitals.
· In contrast, the 26-34 age group accounted for almost 36 percent of drug emergency cases and 24 percent of drug-related deaths. Fully two-thirds of drug-related deaths were among those between 35 and 44.
· Drug arrests for juveniles dropped by about 7% between 1999 and 2008. In 1999 juveniles accounted for about 12% of all drug arrests, while in 2009 that percentage had dropped to a mere 10%; dropped by 31% from 2006-2015
· Despite the fact that adults use drugs at a higher rate than youths under 18, the arrest rates are much higher for kids
· 5% of 12th graders used pot daily in 2006 vs. 4.9% in 1996.
· Research by Mike Males documents a drug decline in juvenile arrests during the past two decades in California. For instance, between the early 1990s and 2011 the total youth arrest rates declined by 51%; violent crime arrest rates went down by 56%; homicide arrest rate declined by 78%. Here’s his latest report: http://www.cjcj.org/news/11883
n Myth 5: Youths who commit murder and other serious crimes need to be treated as an adult.
· Every major study has found that certifying children as adults does more harm than good. The overall “get tough” approach has backfired as a social policy.
· A closely related myth says that tougher laws will reduce juvenile crime. This is not true. One example of getting tough is curfew laws, periodically touted as a cure-all for juvenile crime. Enforcement of curfew laws has no impact on juvenile crime.
· This is because most juvenile crime is committed during hours not covered by curfew laws.
Some additional myths
• Myth: In the 1990s, school violence affected mostly white students or students who attended suburban or rural schools.
– Fact: African-American and Hispanic males attending large inner-city schools that serve very poor neighborhoods faced - and still face - the greatest risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of a violent act at school. This is true despite the recent series of multiple shootings in suburban, middle-class white schools.
• Myth: Weapons-related injuries in schools have increased dramatically in the last five years.
– Fact: National data show that between 2001 and 2011 violence was rare among students, as less than 1% had been arrested for a serious violent crime
Media contributes to myths
• Media blitzes surrounding school shootings and other violent, but rare incidents have succeeded in scaring the public and creating a climate that supports tougher juvenile laws like curfews and trying kids in adult courts.
• 75% of the public say they form their opinions about crime from what they see or read in the news, while only 22% say they get their primary information on crime from personal experience.
• The media rarely connect crimes to a larger social context and they disproportionately connect people of color as perpetrators of crime and white people as victims of crime
NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll
• 71% of Americans felt that a school shooting was likely in their community.
• There was less than a one in two million chance of being killed in a school in America in 1998-1999