Introduction

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is committed to improving the justice system's response to crimes against children. OJJDP recognizes that children are at increased risk for crime victimization. Not only are children the victims of many of the same crimes that victimize adults, they are subject to other crimes, like child abuse and neglect, that are specific to childhood. The impact of these crimes on young victims can be devastating, and the violent or sexual victimization of children can often lead to an intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse. The purpose of OJJDP's Crimes Against Children Series is to improve and expand the Nation's efforts to better serve child victims by presenting the latest information about child victimization, including analyses of crime victimization statistics, studies of child victims and their special needs, and descriptions of programs and approaches that address these needs.

Until recently, it has been difficult to obtain a national statistical picture of juvenile crime victimization. The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, which has served as the Nation's primary source of information about crime since 1929, has never collected information or reported crimes by age of victim, with the exception of homicides. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the victim self-report survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics for the past 20 years, has collected data only on crimes occurring to persons 12 years of age or older. Consequently, even such a basic fact as the percentage of all violent crimes that are committed against juveniles (youth ages 17 and younger) has been unavailable.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) developing National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), however, does provide detailed statistical information about juvenile victims of reported crimes. As more jurisdictions begin to participate in NIBRS, the outlines of a national picture of juvenile crime victims are beginning to emerge. Even though NIBRS is far from a comprehensive national data system, the fact that only partial data were available previously makes it particularly useful to see what information about juvenile victims can be gleaned from this system.

An analysis of 1997 NIBRS data from jurisdictions in 12 States reveals some key findings:

  • Juveniles make up 12 percent of all crime victims known to police, including 71 percent of all sex crime victims and 38 percent of all kidnaping victims (figure 1).

  • Simple assault is the most commonly reported crime against juveniles, constituting 41 percent of all juvenile victimizations reported to police (figure 2). Sexual offenses make up 12 percent, aggravated assaults 11 percent, and kidnapings 1 percent of all the crimes against juveniles reported to police.

  • Girls predominate as victims of sex offenses and kidnaping, but boys predominate as victims of all other crimes.

  • Children under age 12 make up approximately one-quarter of all juvenile victims known to police and at least one-half of the juvenile victims of kidnaping and forcible sex offenses.

  • Adult offenders are responsible for 55 percent of juvenile victimizations, most disproportionately for kidnaping, sex offenses, and the victimizations of children younger than 6 and older than 15.

  • Family perpetrators make up 20 percent of the offenders against children, but they make up a majority of offenders against children under age 4 and are disproportionately represented among kidnapers and sex offenders.

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Characteristics of Crimes Against Juveniles Juvenile Justice Bulletin June 2000