Youth crime on the decline
Dept. of Justice data shows juvenile arrests trending down; year-over-year stats report 13 percent drop
Since 2007, juvenile arrests have set record lows statewide and across the Santa Clarita Valley, following a pattern of steady decline, according to a new report from the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ).
The report and fact sheet by CJCJ Senior Research Fellow Mike Males found California’s youth ages 10 to 17 are no longer considered to be a high-crime demographic.
“These findings show each generation of California youth, from Generation X onward, has lowered the state’s rate of youth arrest and contributed to increased public safety,” Males wrote in the report.
Based on statistics from the California Department of Justice—which were reported to the state by local law enforcement agencies—the study evaluated youth arrest rates and rates for types of crime from 1957 to 2016.
The report found that total arrests of California youth declined by 13 percent, or by 9,180 arrests, in 2015 compared to 2016.
It also found a similar trend for youth arrests for violent crimes including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and kidnapping, which have fallen to 73 percent below the 1990 rate and 68 percent below the 1975 rate.
Millennials have the lowest juvenile arrest rates of any generation, with only 5 percent of those under 18 years old and born between 1982 and 2004 arrested annually, according to the fact sheet.
The statewide trends also mirror those of the Santa Clarita Valley, with juvenile arrests
for felonies and misdemeanors at an all-time low for the past 20 years, according to data from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
In 2016, there were 342 juvenile arrests reported from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. Of these arrests 79 were felonies and 293 were misdemeanors.
The numbers are significantly lower than those in 2007—the highest reported juvenile arrest year of the past 20 years—when the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station reported 1,980 juvenile arrests. Of these arrests, 368 were felonies and 1,612 were misdemeanors.
Over the years the numbers have ebbed and flowed in the area, with rates slightly declining in the early 2000s before plateauing in 2007 and then steadily declining.
CJCJ attributes this steady decline in juvenile arrests to two factors: California’s justice reform era and youth education.
“Though the specific cases remain unknown, the massive decline in youth and young adult crime is associated with increase educational attainment among younger Californians,” the study read. “This indicates investments in education, rather than increased detention, is a more promising approach.”
In the Santa Clarita Valley, deputies actively work with youth convicted of crimes and youth in schools to teach them about the dangers and consequences of making poor choices.
“We do outreach with the kids, I do specific stuff for drug offenders,” said Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Detective William Velek, who is a member of the juvenile drug diversion and intervention team. “Any time that drug offenders are on campus I get an audience with them and we talk about in general what that means and how that affects you.”