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Today’s number: One in three arrested by the age of 23

Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Wow

Nearly one in three people will be arrested by the time they are 23, a study to be published today in Pediatrics found. […]

The new data show a sharp increase from a previous study that stunned the American public when it was published 44 years ago by criminologist Ron Christenson. That study found 22 percent of youth would be arrested by age 23. The latest study finds 30.2 percent of young people will be arrested by age 23.

Criminologist Alfred Blumstein says the increase in arrests for young people in the latest study is unsurprising given several decades of tough crime policies.

“I was astonished 44 years ago. Most people were,” says Blumstein, a professor of operations research at the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University who served with Christenson on President Lyndon Johnson’s crime task force.

Now, Blumstein says, youth may be arrested for drugs and domestic violence, which were unlikely offenses to attract police attention in the 1960s. “There’s a lot more arresting going on now,” he says.

The new study is an analysis of data collected between 1997 and 2008 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The annual surveys conducted over 11 years asked children, teens and young adults between the ages of 8 and 23 whether they had ever been arrested by police or taken into custody for illegal or delinquent offenses.

The question excluded only minor traffic offenses, so youth could have included arrests for a wide variety of offenses such as truancy, vandalism, underage drinking, shoplifting, robbery, assault and murder — any encounter with police perceived as an arrest, Brame says. Some of the incidents perceived and reported by the young people as arrests may not have resulted in criminal charges, he says.



  1. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:45 am:

    I’m not terribly surprised. There’s quite a range of activity that can get you arrested, from the mickey-mouse to the very serious.

    I was arrested before I was 23. So were most of my male friends (the girls always got away with everything). Think kegger.

  2. - Lefty Lefty - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:46 am:

    I don’t find it that surprising; 2 out of 3 not getting arrested seems more surprising actually. Everyone I hung out with on the south side got arrested at least once for alcohol when I was in high school. Scared straight and all that stuff.

    This would be a good poll question for your loyal and accomplished readers.

  3. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:47 am:

    I would like to see the actual data. The question format explained in the last paragraph would vastly overstate the number of “arrests.” I also wonder if the 1 in 3 was based on population averages or on a per-individual basis. In other words, if you have 9 kids, and one of them is arrested 3 times, is he inflating the average for the group?

  4. - Ghost - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:51 am:

    I wonder how many of these would be reduced by making small amounts of marijuana a ticket/fine or even legalized.

  5. - Ahoy - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:53 am:

    It would be interesting to find out how many of these arrests are truancy, drinking and drug related and how much those arrests cost taxpayers.

    Maybe it’s time for some reforms to our punishment system and to our corrections system.

  6. - Fiefdom - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 9:54 am:

    The trend of arrests is correlated to the increase in government expansion and the required funding that follows. Follow the money. Most county sheriffs and state troopers will agree with that statement.

  7. - TCB - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:01 am:

    I want to lead the “I am the 66%” movement.

  8. - Ghost - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:04 am:

    “The trend of arrests is correlated to the increase in government expansion and the required funding that follows. Follow the money. Most county sheriffs and state troopers will agree with that statement.”

    can you explain that, it reads like white noise.

    particualry since governemnt in IL, most states on and the Federal lelve has been retracting, there are far fewer governemnt employees then in years past at all levels…. and crime is going up…. hmmmm…..

  9. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:08 am:

    Government expansion, the nanny state,a prison system that rerquires Judges to keep the beds full.It should be reformed, but with the amount of
    money law enforcment wants and gets, I doubt there
    if it ever will. A lot of these arrests are for really petty crimes. Legalize marijuana,and watch these figures drop. As long as I can remember young people have always got busted for one thing or another.Nothing really changes.

  10. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:09 am:

    Actually Ghost, from today’s WSJ:

    –Crime fell nationwide in the first half of 2011 despite high unemployment, budget cuts and police layoffs. Violent crime declined 6.4%.–

  11. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:09 am:

    When I think about all the times I might have been arrested, or should have been arrested, and about the behavior of my stupid friends, and then think about the fact that we were the “GOOD” kids, I guess I’m not too surprised. Young people do stupid things. The question is how do you straighten them out instead of making them worse?

  12. - oakparker - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:13 am:

    The FBI statistics for violent crime do not include drug-related crimes.

  13. - Jaded - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:14 am:

    So what?

    I’m one of the 33% (at least twice but it would have been more if they had paddy wagons where I grew up). I was actually fnger printed and spent the night once. My record actually gave a “hit” on a background check by one of my employers. I explained my youthful indiscretions. He laughed, shared his, and hired me.

  14. - In 630 - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:14 am:

    I chalk it up to the whole “tough on crime” thing that we’ve seen in action for a long time. Making more things illegal and increasing penalties for things that already are. Sometimes it’s a good idea, a lot of times it isn’t. That plus the spread of the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement. When there’s more stuff to get arrested for, and more emphasis on making arrests to “send a message” more people get arrested.

  15. - Boone Logan Square - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:15 am:

    The NY Times story on the study had a bit more on the results:
    “The study, the first since the 1960s to look at the arrest histories of a national sample of adolescents and young adults over time, found that 30.2 percent of the 23-year-olds who participated reported having been arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation.

    That figure is significantly higher than the 22 percent found in a 1965 study that examined the same issue using different methods. The increase may be a reflection of the justice system becoming more punitive and more aggressive in its reach during the last half-century, the researchers said. Arrests for drug-related offenses, for example, have become far more common, as have zero-tolerance policies in schools.”

    As the article Rich quoted emphasizes, arrests include fairly minor offenses, and I am not at all surprised to see a substantial increase in minors arrested after all the fears of young “superpredators” (to quote Blumstein’s earlier work) twenty years ago.

    That said, I’m curious whether this increase in arrests was proportional across the United States. The reason I ask is that California was unusually vigorous in building (and filling) prisons in the 1980s and 1990s. Is the rate the same in Los Angeles as it is in New York? While most American cities have seen a dramatic drop in crime rates the past twenty years, the drop that started in NYC around 1990 is unusually steep.

  16. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:16 am:

    Most of us never broke
    the 11th Commandant don’t get caught.
    Rabid is 100% correct.

  17. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:17 am:

    I was arrested in Missouri when I was under age 23, for misdemeanor possession of the dried product of a plant. I spent the night in a small-town jail (Marshfield, MO). I was bailed out the next day, and there was no way I was going back to Missouri to go to court. I was so scared I would be extradited. People rightfully laughed at my fear.

    There seemed to have been many more cops around when I was a teenager in Chicago. There were narcs everywhere, as well as marked cars. Nowadays, I hardly see any cops patrolling my neighborhood. I like that the city of Evanston decriminalized cannabis possession (10 grams or less). I wish other cities would do the same.

  18. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    Data at NORML’s site shows that about 21.5 million have been arrested for pot offenses since 1965 with 8 million of those arrests coming in the 21st century.

    “Assuming that nearly three out of four of those arrested in the past decade were under age 30, that equates to the arrest of some 6 million young people — including 2 million teenagers — for marijuana-related offenses since the year 2000.”

    Cops are not only stuck enforcing goofy pot laws, It stinks that the “war” on drugs alienates so many young Americans from the police. And it doesn’t keep teens away from pot. I’m guessing that it is easier for minors to buy pot than booze.

  19. - Way Way Down Here - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:30 am:

    I spent a night in the hoosgow as a kid (alcohol). The cop who picked me up was my sunday school teacher. He let me out in the morning so I could go to church.

    Small towns back in the 22% days.

  20. - Dirt Digger - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:32 am:

    When I saw this reported I immediately wondered what the racial breakdown of the arrest estimates were. So far I haven’t found them, or any indication that they were considered.

    Seems irresponsible for a study like this.

  21. - amalia - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:39 am:

    would like to view the breakout for juvenile vs. adult arrests. also, were the “arrests” taken to prosecution. many, many juveniles are “arrested” only to be station adjusted, which is actually disturbing from a safety perspective as kids often do not learn early the consequences of bad acts. the data is from surveys. would like to see comparison with actual criminal justice system hard information.

  22. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:42 am:

    ===There were narcs everywhere===

    Maybe you were just paranoid?

  23. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 11:53 am:

    =Maybe you were just paranoid?=

    You mean cops were really not in trees with binoculars, and that wasn’t Howdy Doody in my window?

    I remember the large unmarked cars, the gas guzzlers of the late 1970s, occasionally rolling up on us when we were walking or in some park, alley or gangway, partying. We were lucky that we were never arrested. On a few occasions, the cops gave us back our beer and weed, or else they would take them or make us pour them down the sewer.

  24. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 1:05 pm:

    I also think it’s unfair for certain non-violent crimes to be attached to a person’s permanent record. Why should a single, stupid incident follow you around for the rest of your life?

  25. - downstate commissioner - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 1:26 pm:

    Think that attitudes towards alcohol have changed. My parents let me have beer at home, just another beverage. Think that a lot of people let their kid’s friends drink in their homes-wouldn’t dare do that now. Cops were more likely to take the beer ( with no explanation as to where it went) or just dump it, rather than have the hassle with the paperwork.
    Also think that schools are now more likely to involve police in incidents that in the good-old-days of corporal punishment would have been taken care of in-house, or with discussion with the parents, who also understood the benefits of corporal punishment or true “grounding”

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 1:56 pm:

    @wordslinger: stop confusing people with facts, please. Especially when they’re trying to make a point, for Pete’s sake!!

  27. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 2:19 pm:

    All this makes me nostalgic for John Brumley, the town cop where I grew up. One of my friends described John’s philosophy of policing as to “protect you from the really bad guys and everybody else from you.” I would like to see that on a squad car. Anyway, it was a little town, nothing to do, so me hung around and made minor trouble. If you made too much trouble, John would say you had to go home: “I don’t want to see you any more tonight.” And you would. He finally retired to Lake of the Ozarks or some place like that. A couple of my friends went down to visit him and he was really pleased. You know you’ve had a successful career as Sheriff of Mayberry when your juvenile delinquents come visit you after you retire to another state.

  28. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 2:21 pm:

    Phooey. “We hung around….”

  29. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 2:32 pm:

    I got pinched with two of my buddies in high school and spent the night in the Kankakee County jail. I even got mentioned on WKAN the next morning, although it wasn’t exactly the crime of the century. I ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft of a highway sign and minor in possession of alcohol. Paid a $300 fine, which seemed like a lot at the time since it came out of my pocket, plus the lawyer’s fee. That was back when minimum wage was about $3.50 an hour, so if you do the math, it was quite an expensive mistake.

    My friends and I were knuckleheads and should have known better, but beer erodes common sense and youth leads one to believe in personal invincibility.

    That was the first and only time I’ve worn handcuffs. Lesson learned. If it happens to my kids, I’ll handle it the same way my dad handled me: they’ll have to take full responsibility for their actions. Don’t do the crime if you can’t afford the fine.

  30. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 3:00 pm:

    “the cops gave us back our beer and weed”

    Rich will enjoy this one. A friend and I got busted smoking pot at the old ballpark. The cops gave us back the weed but took our tickets and tossed us out. We went over the McCuddy’s and had a few beers and waited for our other friend to figure out we weren’t coming back to the seats.

    I’m sure that’s not how it would happen now.

  31. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 4:08 pm:

    =Rich will enjoy this one. A friend and I got busted smoking pot at the old ballpark. The cops gave us back the weed but took our tickets and tossed us out. We went over the McCuddy’s and had a few beers and waited for our other friend to figure out we weren’t coming back to the seats.

    I’m sure that’s not how it would happen now.=

    This made me laugh out loud and brought back memories of the old ballpark, also the concerts. Thanks.

  32. - railrat - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 5:52 pm:

    now law enforcement cant be diplomatic they have video watching(Orwellian)when some of us where “naughty” we gat taken home to a much more “intense” understanding of what was right vs. wrong than incarceration

  33. - UnableToThinkOfACatchyHandle - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 6:34 pm:

    I agree with many of you all, weed should be legal, that would cut down on alot of the useless arrests.

    And yeah, I’d argue that getting arrested nowadays is much more serious. It will follow you around basically forever. When you get arrested that data can get in one of the private databases that people use for background checks. Once it is in it is impossible to get out even if you do get the arrest expunged or sealed.

  34. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 20, 11 @ 10:22 pm:

    =Rich will enjoy this one. A friend and I got busted smoking pot at the old ballpark. The cops gave us back the weed but took our tickets and tossed us out. We went over the McCuddy’s and had a few beers and waited for our other friend to figure out we weren’t coming back to the seats.

    I’m sure that’s not how it would happen now.=

    Old Cominskey Park jail was not cool. They’d cuff you to water pipes down in the bowels. And those old mustachioed moonlighting coppers in the yellow slickers didn’t smile too much.

  35. - Marty - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 6:40 am:

    The study not having been released, and press releases on such things being notoriously bad, it seems a bit early to get all worked up.

    Arrest does NOT equal conviction.

    Arrest does not equal even felony charges.

    Is this really 23% of people, or total assests divided by target population, in which case a few frequent arrestees will weigh very heavily?

    What does “under 23″ mean, exactly, as the statistic is calculated.

    Maybe best to actually see the report and methodology before opining about it.

  36. - Way Way Down Here - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 7:44 am:

    “the cops gave us back our beer and weed”

    The second part of my “arrest” was that the cop took the beer I had over to my house and had a couple with my Dad and laughed about me being in the can.

  37. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 7:44 am:

    –What does “under 23″ mean, exactly,–

    I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that it means less than 23 years of age at the time of first arrest. But that’s just a wild guess.

  38. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 21, 11 @ 8:31 am:

    ===Arrest does NOT equal conviction.===

    Duh. But an arrest record is still an arrest record.

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