Did Youth Drive Crime Increase in 2020?

As crime & violence increased in many cities in America as the pandemic took hold in 2020 the media coalesced around a narrative that the increase was driven mostly by an increase in youth offending. This narrative about youth offending seemed to fit the circumstances as the pandemic got worse schools shut down and there was a a belief that there would be a huge increase in unsupervised youth roaming the streets free to reek havoc on the streets. The question posed by our guest this week is whether or not the data backs up this narrative or challenges it.

Today we speak with Richard Mendel who is a Senior Research Fellow for Youth Justice at the Sentencing Project and author of the study we focus on today. The study is titled “Data Reveals Violence Among Youth Under 18 Has Not Spiked in the Pandemic“. Mendel’s research directly challenged the narrative about the youth being the main driver of increases in crime and violence in 2020. The research focuses on violent crime including homicides, robberies, carjackings, rape. robbery.and  aggravated assault.

Mendel clearly lays out:

  • the share of crime committed by youth continued to decline in 2020
  • Serious violence offenses committed by youth decreased in 2020.
  • There is not national data collected on carjackings as they fall into the robbery category. In 2020 the data shows that robberies by youth declined in 2020.

Mendel’s findings are provocative and certainly challenge the narrative that has been pushed by the media, especially in Chicago. Mendel does specifically highlight Chicago when addressing carjackings specifically as this issue has been in the media significantly. Mendel points to the fact that arrests have only been made in 5% of carjacking cases so it is impossible to determine from that small sample who is responsible for the majority of carjacking offenses.

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Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Chicago Justice Podcast

This is our Chicago Justice Podcast that covers crime, violence, and justice issues in Chicago. We will feature deep dives in to justice system data, interview with researchers and justice system reform advocates, as well as evaluations of justice system practices.

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