The Violent Crime Arrest Rate

Hispanics/Latinos (an ethnic designation, not a race) were classified as White. In contrast to their representation in the population, African American youth were overrepresented in juvenile arrests for violent crimes and, to a lesser extent, property crimes. Of all juvenile arrests for violent crimes in 2003, 53% involved White youth, 45% involved African American youth, 1% involved Asian youth, and 1% involved American Indian youth. For property crime arrests, the proportions were 69% White, 28% African American, 2% Asian, and 1% American Indian.

The violent crime arrest rate (i.e., arrests per 100,000 juveniles in the racial group) in 2003 for African American juveniles (752) was more than 4 times the rates for American Indian juveniles and White juveniles (186) and more than 8 times the rate for Asian juveniles (88). For property crime arrests, the rate for African American juveniles (2,352) was about double the rates for American Indian juveniles (1,366) and White juveniles (1,237) and nearly four times the rate for Asian juveniles.

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During the period from 1980 through 2003, the African American-to-White disparity in juvenile arrest rates for violent crimes declined. In 1980, the African American juvenile arrest rate for violent crime was 6.3 times the White rate; in 2003, the rate disparity had declined to 4.0. This reduction in arrest rate disparities between 1980 and 2003 was primarily the result of the decline in African American-to-White arrest rate disparities for robbery because the disparity in the arrest rates for aggravated assault changed little.

Self-report statistics suggest that part of this differential pattern of arrest may be due to real differences in offending behavior. According to some sources, African American youth report more frequent and serious offenses than White youth. In other studies, African American and White youth do not show significantly different prevalence rates but do show a greater probability of committing an offense than Asian youth. A meta-analysis of 65 studies addressed the question of differential offending and foundthat, while controlling for prior offenses decreased the prevalence of direct race effects, differences in behavior did not explain the racial disparities in juvenile justice processing. That is, inequities in the system cannot be explained by racial and ethnic behavioral differences.

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