The instructor demands you look to your left. Then, to your right. He then says, "one of you won't make it through this ______ (fill in the type of course)." You all look around and swear silently it won't be you.
Apparently, that is the case for anyone under the age of twenty-three in America. Researchers at the University of North Carolina just completed a study that shows just over 30% of Americans currently twenty-three and under have been arrested for something other than a traffic ticket.
That's one-third! What is happening? I should point out that this study's criteria for an arrest is expansive. It includes crimes from disorderly conduct through murder. Still, that number is staggering.
Here are some theories on the huge percentage:
- Increased criminal statutes: The number of behaviors considered crimes have increased through the years
- Increased enforcement: Police make more arrests for incidents that would not have resulted in arrests when I was growing up (fights in schools, graffiti). Plus, governments have enforced using the "broken windows" theory. This means arresting and prosecuting quality of life crimes like trespass and graffiti will help put a dent in overall crime rates. If a wall is always filled with graffiti, everyone thinks that is appropriate behavior in the neighborhood and will mirror it. If you remove the cause of the graffiti and the graffiti, crime rates will drop.
- Increased DWI prosecution: This gets a separate category. The number of DWI arrests increases annually. The legal limit has lowered to .08, and legislature's enact new laws every year regarding vehicular assaults and homicides. The days an officer would drive you to your home after he pulled you over are gone. Now he drives you to the lock-up.
- Increased access to drugs: We see younger and younger defendants with criminal possession charges
- Burgeoning population: The population is skyrocketing. This matters when you consider the other factors.
- Decreasing number of two parent households: Kids need two adults in their lives who provide structure and guidance. Since 1970 the number of children living in single parent households has increased from 11% to 32%. That's especially interesting when noting the arrest rate is 30% for a similar age group. In most of my juvenile cases, the father has never been in the child's life. Usually, my defendants are raised by their mothers who have to work and they are left unsupervised during a large part of the day.
- Economics: The increasing population puts a strain on the economy and the access to high paying jobs.
What reasons do you have for the number? What do you think of the increased arrests for less serious crimes?