If patterns of crime against juveniles in the rest of the country parallel the patterns from the jurisdictions now reporting to NIBRS, it would appear that crimes against juveniles constitute about one-eighth of all the crimes currently reported to law enforcement officials. However, these crimes carry special burdens. More than 70 percent of reported sex offenses involve juvenile victims. Moreover, crimes against children involve special investigatory and prosecutorial challenges. Some of these relate to the young age of victims—approximately one-quarter of juvenile victims are under age 12. Some of these relate to the intimate character of the perpetrators, 20 percent of whom are family and 61 percent of whom are acquaintances.

The developing NIBRS database offers some welcome opportunities for analyzing and tracking this special category of crime victims. For example, it allows analysis of changes in crime victimization patterns across the stages of childhood. It also offers opportunities to look at special offender categories, such as parents and caretakers (Finkelhor and Ormrod, in press).

The system may be able to highlight some obvious needs for law enforcement attention or training. For example, in recent years, sex offenses have been the major focus of those concerned with juvenile victims, but data from NIBRS jurisdictions reveal that aggravated assaults against juveniles are reported at about the same frequency. Little is known about the needs of such victims and the handling of their victimizations by the criminal and juvenile justice systems. In years to come, NIBRS should prove to be a valuable tool for researchers and practitioners interested in improving public policies toward juvenile victims.

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Characteristics of Crimes Against Juveniles Juvenile Justice Bulletin June 2000