Delinquency caseloads in the nation’s juvenile courts dropped 20 percent between their peak year–1997–and 2009, says a new report from the National Center for Juvenile Justice. After the decline, courts dealt with an estimated 1,504,100 cases in 2009. The federally-funded report gives the data on delinquency cases handled between 1985 and 2009 in juvenile courts and status offense cases between 1995 and 2009.
The numbers over the years reflect the ups and downs in the nation’s juvenile crime problem. Comparing 2009 to 1960, before the modern national crime wave, delinquency cases increased nearly 300 percent in that five-decade period. Also reflecting a national trend, females accounted for 28 percent of the delinquency caseload in 2009, up from 19 percent in 1985. Between 1997 and 2009, the delinquency caseload declined for all race groups: 25 percent for white youth, 23 percent for American Indian youth, 14 percent for Asian youth, and 8 percent for black youth. The number of delinquency cases involving detention rose 29 percent between 1985 and 2009, from 246,300 to 318,000. The proportion of cases detained was about the same over that period, 21 percent.