In recent years, it’s become increasingly common for adolescents who run afoul of the law to be charged as adults. Law enforcement officers are treating behaviors like shoplifting or drug possession that were once viewed as youthful mistakes with much greater severity.
Greater police intolerance for even the most seemingly minor of illegal activities may help to explain why more young people are being arrested and charged with juvenile crimes in the last few decades. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reports that 16 to 27% of study participants were arrested by age 18 and that up to to 41% of American adolescents have been arrested at least once for the age of 23 for offenses other than minor traffic violations.
Investigators looked at findings derived from a national survey that tracked 7000 young people between 1997 and 2008. If the results are wide-ranging, it is likely because not all participants remained involved with the study for the full 11 years. Still, the study is important because it reveals that the rate of arrests among adolescents has increased rather dramatically since researchers last revisited the issue in the mid-1960s.
The data is also significant for what it suggests not only about American young people, but also about changes in the culture of law enforcement. While no definitive conclusion can be reached based on a single study, what is clear is that while youth arrests may be more prevalent now, they are no less stigmatized by society.
If a teenaged loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s imperative that you get the young adult involved to seek legal assistance.