JUVENILE CRIME  IN SAN MATEO COUNTY  1991 REPORT

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CRIMES COMMITTED BY CHILDREN

In 1991, 4,675 children were arrested in San Mateo County, an increase of 7.5% from 4,350 in 1990.  Figure A details recent San Mateo County juvenile arrest trends.

Misdemeanor arrests still account for a majority (57.6%) of arrests, while felony arrests increased to 33.7% of all juvenile arrests, up from 31.0% in 1990.  Status offenses remained nearly constant at 8.7% (from 8.8% in 1990.) Figure B shows 1991 juvenile violations, broken down by category.
 
Over the last few years, misdemeanor and status offense arrests have remained fairly constant, but the number of felony arrests has increased slightly every year since 1986 (with the exception of 1990), yielding an average increase of 9.4% per year.  In 1991, there were 1,574 felony arrests of children, a 16.8% increase from 1990.  While misdemeanors are up 2.9% from 1990 and status offenses are up 6.3%, violations in these categories have remained generally consistent over the past nine years.  Figure C details these trends.

 

Felony Arrests

Figure D1 details breakdown by percentage of juvenile arrests for felonies in 1991.   Burglary, as in past years, accounted for the largest proportion of juvenile felony arrests in 1991, with 441 arrests, or 28% of the total.  Also accounting for large shares of felony arrests were motor vehicle theft (252 arrests, 16%) and theft (224 arrests, 14.2%). The increases in these three offenses alone account for 64.6% of the increase in felony arrests.  Felony arrests for homicide fell from five to four.   Felony arrests for marijuana increased from 24 to 41 and dangerous drugs increased from 7 to 13.  The largest percentage increase in felony arrest was forcible rape, up from 7 arrests in 1990 to 15 in 1991.

 

Misdemeanor Arrests

Petty theft arrests accounted for the largest portion (38.3%) of misdemeanors, with 1,032 arrests; petty theft arrests for 1991 remained nearly constant with 1990 and 1989 levels.  Assault and battery was the second most common offense, with 479 arrests, or 17.8% of the total misdemeanor arrests.  This figure constitutes no significant change since 1990.  Malicious Mischief accounted for 11.0% of misdemeanor arrests, with 297 arrests in 1991, down slightly from 321 in 1990.  Figure D2 shows the breakdown of misdemeanor arrests by offense.

 

Status Offenses

Of all categories of juvenile violations in 1991, status offenses remained the most constant.  Status offenders are juveniles who are habitually disobedient or truant, beyond parental control or in violation of curfew ordinances.  The total number of status offense petitions increased 6.3% in 1991, from 383 in 1990 to 407, representing 8.7% of all citations or arrests of children.
Most status offenders were runaways, although the number of runaways decreased 29.8% to 203 in 1991.  Truancy cases increased from seven in 1990 to 22 in 1991.  The change in truancy is difficult to measure because only a small fraction of truants are cited for status offenses.  Many schools address truancy through the intervention of school review boards, without involving the juvenile justice system.  Curfew violators continued to increase in 1991, from 37 in 1990 to 51 (the 1989 figure was only 8.) The breakdown of status offenses is shown in Figure D3.

 

Alcohol and Other Drug Violations

The number of arrests of children for narcotics, marijuana and other drug law violations fell from 149 to 144 in 1991, a percentage change of -3.3%. A marked change however, was noticeable in the percentage of drug law violators arrested on felony charges.  In 1990, 54.4% of drug law violators were arrested for felonies, while the 1991 figure is 62.5%. In 1991, felony arrests for marijuana increased from 24 to 41 arrests, and arrests for dangerous drugs increased from 7 to 13 instances.


The number of arrests of children for drunkenness and liquor law violations increased slightly, from 161 arrests in 1990 to 169 arrests, a change of 4.9%. In addition, misdemeanor arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol increased from 36 arrests in 1990 to 45 arrests in 1991.  Felony arrests for driving under the influence continued to be negligible (one incident).


Despite the low number of arrests for alcohol and drug violations, arrest statistics may not accurately reflect the incidence of drug and alcohol use among the juvenile population addressed in this report.  Many juveniles who are arrested for other charges are later found to be drug or alcohol users.  Available data provides no means of statistically representing the effect of drug or alcohol use on other juvenile violations.

 

Arrest Trends

The number of children arrested and the absolute and percentage changes for each offense are disclosed in Table 1.
 

FELONIES 

1990

1991

Absolute Change

Percentage Change

Homicide 

5

4

-1

-20%

Rape

7

15

114%

Robbery

96

82

-14

-14.6%

Assault 

129

161

32

24.8% 

Burglary 

375

441

66

17.6% 

Theft 

196

224 

28

14.3%

Auto Theft 

200 

252

52

26% 

Forgery

22

30

8

36.4%

Arson

24

24

0

Narcotics

50

36

-14

-28% 

Marijuana 

24

41

17

70.8% 

Dangerous Drugs 

7

13

85.7%

Weapons

95 

96

1

1.1% 

All Other

118

155

37

31.3% 

Total

1348

1574

226

16.8%

                        

MISDEMEANORS

1990

1991 

Assault & Battery

468

479 

11

2.3%

Petty Theft

1047

1032

-15

-1.4% 

Other Theft

13

12

-1

-7.7% 

Trespassing

74

105

31

41.9%

Marijuana

43

37

-6

-14%

Other Drugs

25

17

-8

-32%

Drunk

76

86

10

13.1% 

Liquor Laws

85

83

-2

-2.4%

Disturbing Peace

113

143

30 

26.5%

Mal. Mischief

321

297

-24

-7.5% 

DUI

36

45

9

25% 

Joy Riding

70

83

13

18.6% 

All Other

248

275

27

10.9% 

Total 

2619

2694

75

2.8% 

                        
STATUS OFFENSES

1990

1991 

Truancy 

22

15 

214%

Runaway

289

203

-86

-29.7% 

Curfew

37

51

14

37.8% 

Incorrigible

19

70

51

268% 

All Other

31

61

30

96.8%

Total

383

407

24

6.3% 

Total Arrests    

4350 

4675

325

7.5%

Table 1 (Bureau of Criminal Statistics)
 

Several different factors may have contributed to the changing numbers in this year's arrest statistics.  Arrest patterns are affected by changes in local ordinances, law enforcement policies and procedures, actual crimes committed, demographics, and other sociological considerations.

 

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