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By Richard Armen
Crime statistics show that approximately one-third of all victims of violent crime are teenagers, between the ages of 12 and 19. Today, homicide is the second-leading cause of death for young adults, after car accidents. Each year, more than 1,500 murder victims are children and teens. While many people think that crime doesn’t regularly befall children, as it’s part of living in a “grown up” world, the statistics show that this is clearly not the case.
Teens are not only the victims of violent crime, but sometimes the perpetrators, too. Almost half of all violent crimes are committed by perpetrators under 25 years old. In 2006, 15% of all arrests were made on people under the age of 18, while more than 1,100 homicide suspects were under the age of 18. Children and teens regularly become both the victims and the perpetrators of violent crimes. When watching the nightly news, it’s not uncommon to hear about the shooting death of a teen, or of a group of teens who are accused of assault.
Those who watch the news every night or read the daily newspaper front to back might notice that teens who choose to do positive things for the community almost never ends up as the leading story or on the front page news. Such news simply does not sell.
Many news shows, not to mention politicians, are obsessed with the teen crime rate. We hear in the news daily how crime is increasing dramatically in this age group. While these statistics may certainly be shocking, in actuality they have not changed dramatically over the past decades. In fact, crime statistics show that in reality, the youth of today are not any more criminally inclined than the generations before them. In fact, some crime statistics show that today’s youth are even less likely to commit certain crimes, although the FBI statistics show that the teen crime rate is rising across some categories.
With that being said, the statistics certainly do show that all too often, teens are the perpetrators of both violent and non-violent crimes. Psychologists know that adolescents’ brains are undeveloped, and too often, unsupervised kids are left to their own devices and make poor choices. Most teens’ risky behavior, including not only criminal behaviors but also drinking, smoking, and other poor choices, tends to peak between the hours of 3:00 and 8:00pm. With no supervision or constructive activities during this time, the U.S. Attorney’s General’s Office says, “we reap a massive dose of juvenile crime.”
What can you do about the potential for teen crime? If you’re the parent of a teen or preteen, practice “defensive parenting” by taking an approach that is both preventative and proactive. Keep teens occupied after school, and model good behavior. At the same time, recognize that they may also become the victim of a violent crime. Prepare them with pepper spray, personal alarms, and other devices, especially if you know they’ll be out without adult supervision, such as at the mall or the skate park.
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