As noted in this Bulletin, an
increasing number of very young offenders,
those between the ages of 7 and 12,
are becoming involved with the
juvenile justice system. According to
the latest statistics, children younger
than 13 are involved in almost 1 in
10 juvenile arrests. These youth
account for more than one-third of
juvenile arrests for arson and nearly
one-fifth of juvenile arrests for sex
offenses and vandalism.
Compared with juveniles who
become involved in delinquency in
adolescence, very young delinquents
are at greater risk of becoming serious, violent, and chronic offenders.
They are also more likely than older
delinquents to continue their
delinquency for extended periods of time.
Consequently, over their lifetimes,
these offenders may pose a
disproportionate threat to persons and
property. In addition, these offenders
have the potential to place significant demands on the funds and
resources of educational, justice, and
social services agencies.
The good news is that prevention
and intervention efforts focused on
very young offenders could yield
significant benefits. For these benefits to be realized, however, the
unique challenges posed by these
offenders must be addressed before
their delinquency escalates.