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In 2014, more than one million people under the age of 18 were arrested in the United States.
Despite this being far lower than previous years (it almost reached three million in 1996), juvenile crime is still a primary cause for concern for many Americans – parents in particular.
And with drug and alcohol abuse cases constantly on the rise, juvenile crime can be a worrying side effect of these statistics.
Let’s explore exactly what juvenile crime is, what types of crimes juveniles are committing, and how juvenile delinquency can be prevented.
What is Juvenile Crime?
A juvenile crime is committed by someone at a very young age – these youngsters are often referred to as being juvenile delinquents.
The juvenile delinquent definition covers any young person, often a teenager who’s less than 18 years old, who breaks the law (federal or state) by committing a crime.
Because many teenagers don’t think like adults, they aren’t always treated like adults when it comes to the justice system, hence why we define juvenile crime differently to adult crime.
In some cases there will be a certain amount of leniency toward the juvenile, as teenagers can be led astray, may make mistakes, or may commit a crime due to pressure or circumstances that are beyond their control.
Teenagers may break the law for a number of different reasons, with a number of factors contributing toward them becoming a “juvenile delinquent.”
Types of Juvenile Crime
Sometimes, a teen may find themselves becoming unwittingly involved in petty crimes – but when they aren’t guided down the right path, this could lead to more serious crimes.
As a parent, it’s sometimes hard to know what your kids are up to but it’s important to monitor their day-to-day behavior to try and steer them away from this life of crime. That said, you might be completely oblivious to the juvenile crimes your son or daughter are committing.
What are the most common types of crimes committed by juveniles?
These cases include stealing something from someone’s locker or backpack, stealing a bike, or shoplifting. These small-scale crimes are easy for teens to pull off, and may give them a buzz. And because they tend to involve low-value items, these cases often go unreported so there’s no investigation into the crime or repercussion for the thief.
As teens often get away with larceny, this can feed their criminal tendencies, leading them to try bigger and bolder crimes because of their boosted confidence.
Over 177,000 juveniles committed this type of crime in 2014.
2. Assault or Battery
This confidence and/or peer pressure and the fear of being bullied themselves can often result in youngsters assaulting other people. This may involve pushing or shoving other people around, having physical disagreements with you, or bullying someone to the extent that it’s deemed “assault.”
In 2014, there were 30,300 cases of aggravated assault and a further 140,500 cases of other assaults involving juveniles.
3. Illegal Purchases
Alcohol, drugs, and smoking are things many youngsters will experiment with at school, and these substances become even more predominant among those who are committing crimes. Not only do they run the risk of getting arrested if they’re caught with these substances but there’s also the added risk they’ll become addicted to them. And it’s how they feed this addiction that becomes a worrying problem.
To feed their habit they may revert back to larceny crimes to make money. However, because of how expensive their addiction is, they up their game, stealing things that’ll provide them with plenty of money to buy their next fix. They may steal people’s wallets, cars, and may even find themselves distributing drugs for extra cash.
In 2014, there were 113,600 cases of drug abuse violations and 51,200 cases of alcohol laws being broken.
Preventing Juvenile Delinquency
It’s incredibly difficult to reform a juvenile delinquent, especially once they’ve experienced all there is to know – including jail. This often means they have no fear and have gotten themselves wrapped up in a number of different crimes and among the wrong type of people. This places them in a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
Early prevention is key to stopping teenagers from getting involved in these types of crimes, which means watching out for all the warning signs and teaching kids the moral lessons they need to learn.
Sometimes, though, nothing can prevent a child from making the wrong friends who encourage them to get involved in petty crimes. But if this is the case with your child, there are a number of things you can do.
First, it’s important not to criticize them or make them feel adequate – they need to know they’ve got your support at all times.
Secondly, you need to surround them with positive people and situations, perhaps encouraging them to join different groups or organizations that will provide them with the support and guidance they need.
Finally, it’s important to be a good role model. You’re the one your teen will look up to, so try to instill the traits you want your teen to have in your day-to-day life, too.