This report summarizes recent data on youth arrests and court involvement in the District of Columbia. It expands upon previous DCLY publications on this topic by utilizing arrest data from 1998 through 2014 and adding analysis of delinquency petitions. The data presented in this report are primarily from two sources. Youth arrest data can be found in the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) annual reports, years 1998-2014. Data concerning court petitions against young people under age 18 are available in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Family Division (Family Court) annual reports to Congress, years 2002-2014.
The key findings of the analysis are:
- Youth arrests are at their lowest point in the past 10 years, and have decreased 27% since 2009.
- Delinquency petitions against youth have decreased 29% since 2009.
- Youth arrests for most categories of serious crimes have decreased or held steady since 1998.
- In 2014, 77% of youth arrests and 52% of delinquency petitions were for non-violent, non-weapons offenses.
Based on this analysis, we make three recommendations:
- The District should employ a public health approach to dealing with youth violence. This means investing in evidenced-based, front-end programs that address the underlying factors that contribute to youth violence. By tackling both widespread community needs and the immediate needs of youth at-risk of delinquency, we can hope to see positive outcomes for our youth and for our community.
- Our responses to juvenile justice should be data-driven and research-informed. To that end, we need to become more sophisticated in the manner in which we collect and analyze data. The primary agencies responsible for processing youth through the DC juvenile justice system should create and maintain a unified, multi-agency dataset that allows for improved analysis of youth justice trends.
- The juvenile justice system should focus its efforts primarily on violent and serious weapons offenses. Most other issues can and should be dealt with in the school, behavioral health, and family support systems.