Juvenile delinquency is no different from adult criminality in that it is quite a universal phenomenon present across all states. The purpose of the present paper is to make a theory-grounded prediction about the states with the lowest juvenile murder rates and assess this hypothesis based on the data provided in the Uniform Crime Reports.
Taking into consideration the main patterns and trends of crime in the United States, several assumptions seem to be of relevance. Since juvenile delinquency accounts for approximately 15 percent of total crimes, overall, the statistics for juvenile murderers should be significantly lower compared to adult murderers across all states (Siegel & Welsh, 2015, p. 40). Thus, they are also likely to be strongly linked to the state’s total population. Larger and more populated states such as Texas, New York, and California should probably have more juvenile delinquents. Moreover, I expect the demographic and socioeconomic factors that influence adult criminality to have the same impact on delinquent arrests. For instance, racially and ethnically diverse communities typically have higher arrest rates, whether because of different policing practices or for other reasons. Therefore, I expect smaller, homogenous, and economically prosperous states such as Delaware and New Hampshire to have the smallest number of juvenile murderers.
To assess the quality of my hypothesis, I will rely on the data from the Uniform Crime Reports that are annually compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Namely, I will use the data on arrests by state for the year 2011. It is convenient to use because the data is disaggregated which allows assessing juvenile delinquency apart from the overall arrest rate (Siegel & Welsh, 2015, p. 46). Using the software table processing tools, I filter the data by the number of reporting agencies (at least seventeen) and the population (at least one million people). By narrowing the search down to the statistics from the under 18-years-old area, I can sort the list of states by the number of people arrested for murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Four states have the least amount of juveniles arrested for murder, and these states are Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, and West Virginia (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011). With the exception of Idaho, these states fit the description in my hypothesis. However, Delaware is not on the list at all as it does not satisfy the population criterion.
While the Uniform Crime Reports are a valuable source of data for research into criminology, one should use it and interpret its data with a certain degree of caution (Siegel & Welsh, 2015, p. 46). First of all, the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not collect the data itself, it receives it from different law enforcement agencies around the country. Thus, the data may be recorded differently not only in different states, but even in different municipalities as they have different regulations and practices when it comes to recording crimes. Some crimes can thus be underreported. Secondly, it reflects the rate of arrests rather than consequent adjudication. The reports are also vulnerable to double counting since it records the arrests and not the actual number of juveniles who committed the crimes. Thus, it is possible for only one person to commit several criminal acts but it will only be recorded as a single arrest (Siegel & Welsh, 2015, p. 47).
Even though the Uniform Crime Reports have several important limitations for a researcher to keep in mind, they nevertheless serve as an important indicator of the overall crime trends and patterns.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). Arrests by state. Web.
Siegel, L.J., & Welsh, B.C. (2015). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.