Report: California Youth Arrest Rate Drops

By Isaiah Thompson-Bonilla

There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of arrests of young California children in the past 30 years, a research report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports.

The arrest rate for children under age 12 dropped by 92 percent. “This trend has significant long-term consequences, as those who are arrested at early ages are more likely to develop chronic offending patterns and have repeated contacts with courts, correctional programs and prisons,” the May 2015 report author Michael Males wrote.

Forty-seven of California’s 58 counties have shown significant reduction in pre-teen arrests since 1980, according to the report. In 1980, Los Angeles County recorded 485 arrests of children 10 years old and under. That number dropped considerably spanning a period of three decades. There were only 17 arrests recorded in 2013.

Fresno, Alameda and Lassen counties showed results that paralleled Los Angeles County during the same period.

The report says California is leading a national trend. Having favorable numbers in school graduation, college enrollment, violent death reduction and lower self destructive behaviors are examples of social and generational factors transforming cognitive moral expression, thus reducing crime among youth.

The large decline in arrests of California’s youth (pre-teen), in the last three decades covered a spectrum of offenses from homicide and rape to shoplifting and truancy.

The reduction in arrests shows more of a generational transition over a period of time where children and young adults’ behavior has transformed. This suggests that harsher policing or policy change is not the catalyst for the decline.

Males contends that, “If the large decrease in child arrests is an artifact of large, heretofore unmentioned changes in policies or policing, we would expect to see it concentrated in jurisdictions that substantially changed their policing and other practices toward young ages…”

As a means of understanding how and why the decline of arrests over a period of three decades happened, Males suggests that “the most plausible factors consist of broad social currents, primarily cohort effects but also temporary period effects, which affected younger generations more than older ones.”

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