Juvenile and Adult Victims

Juveniles make up 12 percent of all the crime victims reported in the police jurisdictions providing NIBRS data, notably less than the percentage of juveniles in both the total U.S. population (26 percent) and the States currently represented in NIBRS (also 26 percent). Individual crimes vary a great deal in their proportion of juvenile victims (figure 1). For two crimes in particular, sex offenses and kidnaping, juveniles make up a quite disproportionate portion of the victim population. Juveniles constitute smaller proportions of the victims of the following crime categories: aggravated assault (19 percent), simple assault (19 percent), robbery (14 percent), homicide (12 percent), larceny (8 percent), vandalism (4 percent), and motor vehicle theft (2 percent). The low percentage for motor vehicle theft is obviously related to the small number of juveniles who own motor vehicles. Overall, juveniles make up 22 percent of violent crime victims and 6 percent of property crime victims (when individuals rather than institutions are identified as victims).

In addition to the percentage of juvenile victims for various crimes, NIBRS data can also provide a perspective on the mix of different kinds of crimes being reported by juveniles (figure 2). Simple assault is by far the most common crime committed against juveniles, constituting 41 percent of all offenses against juveniles known to police. After that, in decreasing order of magnitude, are larceny, sex offenses, aggravated assault, vandalism, robbery, kidnaping, motor vehicle theft, and homicide. There is a set of additional property crimes, such as burglary, arson, and fraud, with a small number of juvenile victims recorded in NIBRS. These crimes are categorized as "all others" in figure 2, but, along with homicide, are not discussed individually in this Bulletin.

Although sexual assault is the crime with the highest percentage of juvenile victims, it is the third most common juvenile crime reported, behind simple assault and larceny. This is true, even with female victims, for whom sex offenses constitute 35 percent of all the reported victimizations. Therefore, while sex crimes against juveniles receive a lion's share of public attention, they constitute a minority of the offenses against juveniles that are reported.

Gender disparities among juvenile crime victims parallel gender differences for crime victims in general (figure 3). Girls outnumber boys as victims of sex offenses (82 percent and 18 percent, respectively) and kidnaping (63 percent and 37 percent, respectively), while boys outnumber girls as victims of robbery (81 percent and 19 percent, respectively) and larceny (69 percent and 31 percent, respectively). Overall, boys are somewhat more likely to be victimized than girls (55 percent and 45 percent, respectively), which is approximately the gender ratio for the most common juvenile victimization—simple assault.

Comparisons of figure 1 and figure 3 show sex offenses as the crime with the highest proportion of juvenile victims and also the highest proportion of female victims. However, an examination of the gender and age patterns of specific sex crimes shows some variability (figure 4). For forcible rape, juveniles constitute about half of the female victims, whereas for forcible fondling and incest, they represent close to 80 percent or more. (Statutory rape is by definition a crime against juveniles.) For male sexual assault victims, there is less variability by type of sex offense. Juveniles account for almost 90 percent of male victims in every type of sex crime. Thus, in terms of what comes to the attention of police in NIBRS jurisdictions, male sexual victimization almost entirely involves juveniles.

Juvenile crime victims are slightly more likely to be from minority backgrounds than adult victims (22 percent and 19 percent, respectively). Compared with levels reported for "all crimes," minority juveniles are particularly overrepresented relative to white juveniles as victims of violent crimes, especially aggravated assault and robbery (figure 5). They are underrepresented as victims of the property crimes of larceny, vandalism, and motor vehicle theft.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System

The U.S. Department of Justice is replacing its long-established Uniform Crime Report (UCR) system with a more comprehensive National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). While the UCR monitors only a limited number of index crimes and, with the exception of homicides, gathers few details on each crime event, the NIBRS system collects a wide range of information on victims, offenders, and circumstances for a greatly increased variety of offenses. Offenses tracked in NIBRS include violent crimes (e.g., homicide, assault, rape, robbery), property crimes (e.g., theft, arson, vandalism, fraud, embezzlement), and crimes against society (e.g., drug offenses, gambling, prostitution). Moreover, NIBRS collects information on multiple victims, multiple offenders, and multiple crimes that may be part of the same episode.

Under the new system, as with the old, local law enforcement personnel compile information on crimes coming to their attention, and this information is aggregated in turn at the State and national levels. For a crime to be counted in the system, it simply needs to be reported and investigated. It is not necessary that an incident be cleared or an arrest made, although unfounded reports are deleted from the record.

NIBRS holds great promise, but it is still far from a national system. Its implementation by the FBI began in 1988, and participation by States and local agencies is voluntary and incremental. By 1995, jurisdictions in 9 States had agencies contributing data; by 1997, the number was 12, and by the end of 1999, jurisdictions in 17 States submitted reports, providing coverage for 11 percent of the Nation's population and 9 percent of its crime. Only three States (Idaho, Iowa, and South Carolina) have participation from all local jurisdictions, and only one city with a population greater than 500,000 (Austin, TX) is reporting. The crime experiences of large urban areas are particularly underrepresented. The system, therefore, is not yet nationally representative nor do findings represent national trends or national statistics. Nevertheless, the system is assembling large amounts of crime information and providing a richness of detail about juvenile victimizations previously unavailable. The patterns and associations these data reveal are real and represent the experiences of a large number of youth. For 1997, the 12 participating States reported a total of 1,043,719 crimes against individuals, with 119,852 occurring against juveniles. Nevertheless, patterns may change as more jurisdictions join the system.

More information about NIBRS data collection can be found at these Web sites:
(1) www.jrsa.org/ibrrc/,
(2) www.fbi.gov/ucr/nibrs/manuals/v1all.pdf,
(3) www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/ucr.htm,
(4) www.search.org/.

The Crimes against Children Research Center

The Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) helps young victims of crime by providing high quality research, statistics, and education to the public, policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and various other child welfare practitioners. The crimes of concern to CCRC include physical and sexual abuse, abduction, homicide, rape, assault, property offenses, and the victimization of children on the Internet. CCRC activities include:

  • Preparing policy reports on key current issues.

  • Analyzing national and local statistics on crimes against children.

  • Developing assessment tools for practitioners and researchers.

  • Promoting crime reporting and help-seeking by and increased services for crime victims.

  • Evaluating state-of-the-art prevention and intervention programs.

  • Sponsoring conferences, workshops, institutes, and courses for practitioners and researchers.

  • Monitoring and interpreting trends.

The Crimes against Children Research Center was created in 1998 at the University of New Hampshire. It grew out of and expands upon the work of the Family Research Laboratory, which has been devoted to the study of family violence, child victimization, and related topics since 1975. Initial funding for CCRC was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. CCRC also draws on funding from grants, individual gifts, revenues from publications and programs, and State and Federal sources. CCRC staff include internationally recognized experts who have published numerous books and articles concerning the incidence and impact of violence against children.

The Center's current projects include the first national study of youth victimization experiences on the Internet; a national evaluation of children's advocacy centers, multidisciplinary agencies that are designed to reduce trauma to children whose crime victimization is being investigated and prosecuted; and the development of a screening tool to help researchers and practitioners better identify child crime victims.

A list of CCRC publications is available online at www.unh.edu/ccrc/Publications.html. For further information contact:

Crimes against Children Research Center
Family Research Laboratory
University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824
Internet: www.unh.edu/ccrc/

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Characteristics of Crimes Against Juveniles Juvenile Justice Bulletin June 2000