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Juvenile Crime - Analysis

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Date Submitted:
03/13/2010 04:22 AM
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In 1997, fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal fired a .22 caliber handgun at an informal prayer group in his high school in West Paducah, Kentucky, killing three students and wounding five. In 1998 in Pearl, Mississippi, sixteen-yearold Luke Woodham first killed his mother, and then went to school and shot nine students, killing two. In the same year, fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel shot and killed his parents and two classmates and wounded twenty-three others. In 2000, a first-grader in Michigan shot and killed another six-year-old after a schoolyard quarrel the day before.
Events such as these have raised concerns about an increase in juvenile crime despite statistics that reveal a decline. According to the Justice Department, the juvenile arrest rate is at its lowest level since 1966, having decreased 68 percent from 1993 to 1999. The arrest rates for four major crimes—robbery, rape, murder, and aggravated assault— dropped 36 percent from 1994 to 1999. Burglary is down 60 percent since 1980, and juvenile arrest rates for weapons crimes fell by 39 percent from 1993 to 1999. Despite these statistics, tragic events such as school shootings have led the public to perceive an increase in both the severity and frequency of juvenile crimes. A 2000 Gallup Poll revealed that Americans believe juveniles to be responsible for 43 percent of all violent crime in the United States, even though statistics from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) claim that juveniles are responsible for only 12 percent of all violent crime.
Just as Americans disagree on the severity of the problem of juvenile crime, they also debate its causes. Many argue that the proliferation of violence in the media contributes significantly to violent behavior in young people. When Michael Carneal was asked by police if he had ever seen anything similar to his actions before, he replied that he had seen it in the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries. The film, which depicts the...
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