ST. PAUL, Minn. — The steady decline of juvenile crime in Minnesota can partly be attributed to years of new legislation and funding, as well as shifting economic factors, according to a report released March 12 by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
The Back to the Future: Volume II report highlights several factors linked to the rise and fall of juvenile crime in Minnesota and the United States between 1980 and 2010, including:
- New laws, policies and procedures at the federal and state level.
- Increases in federal and state funding to combat juvenile crime and delinquency.
- Shifting economic factors—poverty, unemployment and the overall strength of the economy.
“As a whole, juveniles in Minnesota are committing fewer crimes than they did 15 years ago, a welcome trend that we hope continues for years to come,” said Raeone Magnuson, OJP director. “Our goal with this new report is to provide some answers as to why we are seeing a decline in justice system involvement and continue to build upon what we are doing well as a state.”
Juvenile Crime in Minnesota
Back to the Future: Volume I—released in September 2013—shows that after a rapid rise in juvenile crime in Minnesota from 1980 into the late 1990s, crime numbers steadily fell to near 30-year lows by 2010.
- 1982–1998—the number of juvenile arrests in Minnesota increased from 31,812 to 79,584, an increase of 150 percent.
- 1998–2011—the number of arrests declined from 79,584 to 36,192 by 2011, a decrease of 55 percent.
The Rise in Juvenile Crime (1982–1998)
Adult and Juvenile crime increased in Minnesota and the U.S. throughout the 1980s and 1990s. New legislation to combat the growing adult crime rate was introduced during this stretch of high unemployment, declining wage values and high poverty—especially among populations of color.
Legislation and Funding
- 1986 to 1989—Federal Mandatory Sentencing Minimums established five- and 10-year prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses. The incarceration of adults contributed to youth moving into more violent criminal roles.
- 1986, 1988—U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which provides grants to states for the prevention of drug-related crime. The 1988 reauthorization created additional funds to help local law enforcement agencies control violent crime, improve operations, and build coordination and cooperation among justice system partners.
- 1980s—Challenging economic conditions included inflation as high as 13.6 percent, prime interest rates as high as 18.9 percent and variable U.S. gross domestic product.
- 1980s to mid-1990s—U.S. unemployment reached historically high rates (6 to 10 percent); 12 to 15 percent of the U.S. population dipped below the poverty threshold. Unemployment and poverty levels for children and communities of color were especially high.
Juvenile Crime Peaks (Mid-1990s)
Juvenile involvement in violent crime peaked in the mid-1990s. During this time, several states expanded legislation that made it possible for juveniles to be tried as adults. The mid-1990s also was a period of improving economic conditions and increased federal funding for states—billions of dollars were dedicated specifically for delinquency prevention and intervention activities.
Legislation and Funding
- 1994—Minnesota statute expanded conditions under which youth could be tried as adults. Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile classification also was created for youth to remain under juvenile court jurisdiction with a stayed adult sentence until age 21.
- 1994 to 1998—Several federal funding streams were created or enhanced to curb juvenile crime. This included COPS Grants to hire additional police officers and place police in schools, Juvenile Accountability Block Grants for state-level justice system reform, and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act funds—established 1974—for local delinquency prevention and intervention programs.
- Mid- to late 1990s—U.S. economic conditions stabilized with a strong GDP, lower interest rates (6 to 8 percent) and lower inflation (2 to 3 percent). The period was dubbed “The Roaring 90s.”
- Mid- to late 1990s—Improving economic conditions led to declining unemployment, declining poverty levels and an increase in the value of the average hourly wage.
Juvenile Crime Declines (1998–2011)
Juvenile crime steadily declined during the late 1990s into the 2000s as Minnesota implemented several juvenile justice system initiatives. Additionally, a strong economy coupled with low inflation and rising value of wages contributed to declines in unemployment and poverty.
Legislation and Funding
- Late 1990s to 2000s—Minnesota implemented several juvenile justice initiatives including mental health screenings for youth, risk assessment tools to determine community supervision levels and transition plans for some youth exiting juvenile correctional facilities.
- 2000s—New practices shifted away from punitive models toward alternative programs with demonstrated effectiveness. Behavioral interventions, youth mentoring and family therapy approaches emerged as practices to reduce delinquency.
- 2000—Juvenile crime began a sharp decline as U.S. unemployment reached a 30-year low of 4 percent. Minnesota’s unemployment level dropped to less than 3 percent and poverty levels reached 30-year lows in Minnesota and the U.S.
- 2000 to 2012—The economy remained strong until the economic recession of 2008. Unemployment and poverty rose to levels not observed since the 1980s. Following a peak in 2010, both unemployment and poverty levels gradually declined.
OJP Efforts in 2014
OJP manages federal and state funding for delinquency prevention in the state of Minnesota. OJP is administering 107 grants totaling about $7 million this year to Minnesota programs and agencies that work to reduce juvenile crime by encouraging accountability-based reform at the state and local level; and prevent or divert youth, particularly those at-risk, from coming in contact with the juvenile justice system. Many of these grants cover a two-year period.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Justice Programs
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides leadership and resources to reduce crime, improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and assist crime victims. To accomplish this, OJP administers grants; provides training and technical assistance; provides research and data; works to protect crime victims’ rights; and provides reparations benefits to victims of violent crime.