2009 Juvenile Court Statistics: Process and Trends

A new report from the National Center for Juvenile Justice analyzes the 1.5 million delinquency cases processed by juvenile courts in that year. “Juvenile Court Statistics 2009,” closely examines the type of offenses committed, who committed them and how the young people were processed before, during and after their court appearances. In addition, the report looked over juvenile statistics from as far back as 1985 to determine the trends juvenile cases.
The process of the juvenile justice system has many different steps and there are a number of ways that a teen can be processed depending on their circumstances, offense committed and various other factors. All cases need to be referred to the court, usually by law enforcement agencies, and then it is determined if the case will be handled formally or informally and in juvenile or criminal court. In 2009, juvenile courts handled roughly 4,100 cases each day, 30% more than in 1985 and 300% than in 1960.

One of the most interesting trends examined had to do with the type of crimes committed by youth. The nature of offenses committed has shown significant trends over the years since 1985. For example, delinquency offenses against other people have increased from the rates in 1985 but by 2009 had returned to the lowest rates since the early 1990s. Property offenses have decreased overall since 1985 with a couple small increases in the early 1990s. While juvenile offenses against property and other people have been on the decline, drug offenses have risen steadily since 1985.
In addition to the types of crimes committed, the report also delves into the characteristics of the juvenile offenders. In 2009, males accounted for 72% of the cases processed by juvenile courts. Also, 79% of juvenile cases processed youth under the age of 16. Juvenile offenses across all racial groups have been on the decline since they peaked in the mid 1990s, however there was still a significant discrepancy among races and their delinquency rates.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded this report and a statistical briefing book, which summarizes key statistics.

Melany Boulton is a digital communications intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in public relations and a minor in business administration.

Updated: February 08 2018