Juvenile Justice Bulletin Banner 2004

J. Robert Flores, Administrator

September 2004

Trends in the Murder of Juveniles: 1980–2000

Paul D. Harms and Howard N. Snyder


The murder rate for juvenile victims reached a 21-year low in 2000

Trends in murder rates were similar for older juvenile victims and young adult victims

Juveniles most likely to be murdered were younger than 1 and those ages 16 and 17

In 2000, the murder rate for male victims ages 12–17 was more than three times the female rate

Most murder victims ages 12–17 were black

Murder rates for victims ages 2–11 reached
a 21-year low in 2000

Murder rates for victims younger than age 2 were greater for males than females and blacks than whites

Most murders of juveniles ages 12–17 involved firearms

Most murdered children younger than age 2 were beaten to death

Most younger juveniles were murdered by family members

Adults committed the majority of murders of juveniles

Data source note

NCJ 194609

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

This Bulletin was prepared under cooperative agreement number 99–JN–FX–K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.


A Message From OJJDP

Homicides are always tragic, but the killing of a child is especially so. This Bulletin draws on statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program—in particular, supplementary homicide report data—to analyze trends in the murder of youth between 1980 and 2000.

Between 1980 and 2000, approximately 434,000 persons were murdered in the United States. About 1 in 10 of these victims were juveniles. Fortunately, the number of youth murdered in 2000 (1,610) was considerably below the number of youth murdered in 1993 (2,880)—the peak year in the period covered by this Bulletin.

In fact, the 2000 murder rate for juvenile victims was lower than in any of the preceding 20 years. Moreover, the murder rate for youth dropped 47% in just 7 years.

Despite the decrease, there is small comfort in numbers when they represent the violent deaths of more than 1,600 children each year. While the findings reported in these pages show marked improvement, there is still reason for concern. For example, the murder rate for children younger than age 1 was higher than the rate for all youth ages 1–15.

While the trend over the past several years has been positive, there is work to be done.



This Bulletin was written by Paul D. Harms, Ph.D., Research Associate, and Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D., Director of Systems Research, National Center for Juvenile Justice, with funds provided by OJJDP to support the National Juvenile Justice Data Analysis Project. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Get the Latest Statistics Online From OJJDP

If you need statistics about juvenile justice, the Statistical Briefing Book on the OJJDP Web site is the place to look. Visit the Briefing Book at ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/index.html for reliable answers to the most frequently asked questions about juvenile offending, victimization, and involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Office of Justice Programs • Partnerships for Safer Communities • www.ojp.usdoj.gov

OJJDP Home | About OJJDP | E-News | Topics | Funding | Programs
State Contacts | Publications | Statistics | Events