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California juvenile crime rate falls to lowest level in 57 years

A study, the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice has found that number of youths under age 18 arrested in California fell by 20% from 2010 to 2011. This drop brought the number of juvenile arrests to the lowest level since 1954, the first year such records were kept.

The report, "California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low" examined the number of people under the age of 18 who were arrested in California during the last eighty years. The researchers found all areas of juvenile crime declined in 2011. They noted, "felony arrests were down 17 percent, both violent and property felonies were down 16 percent, misdemeanor and status offenses were down 21 percent, and homicide was down 26 percent."

The greatest declines were found in drug-related categories, with a 47% decrease in drug arrests overall. The largest single category decrease was in marijuana possession arrests, which fell by 61 percent.

The authors suggest the decline may be even greater than the statistics show, as in the 1950s many juvenile crimes were charged with vague titles like "delinquent tendencies." Most of the crimes encompassed by this category today would be charged as a specific offense.

The report concludes that decriminalization of marijuana and an improving economic climate appear to be significant factors in the decrease in youth crime. It notes that, "deincarceration of youth does not generate more crime." An additional benefit of this reduction is cost savings, with the report calculating that the decline in youth crimes means a $1 billion in lower costs to tax payers.

Source: The Huffington Post, "California Marijuana Decriminalization Drops Youth Crime Rate To Record Low: Study," Aaron Sankin, November 29, 2012

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