United Nations Surveys on Crime Trends and the …
Another problem with the UCR as a measure of crime is that, regardless of the number of offenses that occur in an incident leading to arrest, only one offense—the most serious—is counted (for a detailed discussion of gaps in the UCR see Maltz, 1999). This procedure results in less serious crimes being undercounted by arrest statistics and a lack of information on the circumstances surrounding the crime. For example, if a homicide occurs during a robbery, only the homicide is counted. As Maltz (1999) points out, this masks the nature of the circumstances surrounding the homicide.
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Forecasts of juvenile crime based on the spike in homicide rates proved to be misleading and highlight the caution with which predictions of future juvenile crime trends must be made.
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The argument that juveniles' access to guns influenced the homicide rate is buttressed by the similar role that gun availability played in juvenile suicide rates (Kachur et al., 1995). The suicide rate increased from 1980 to 1992 by 121 percent for children ages 10 to 14 and by 27 percent for adolescents ages 15 to 19. As shows, the increase in suicides among black adolescents ages 15 to 19 almost entirely involved suicides committed with firearms. Males, both black and white, had a higher rate of firearm suicides than females. At approximately the same time that homicide rates began dropping, so did firearm-related suicides. In fact, the decrease in firearm-related suicides accounted for all the suicide decrease in this age group between 1994 and 1996. Just as the proliferation of firearms appears to have played a part in making violence by young people more deadly, so, too, the use of firearms in suicide attempts is much more likely to result in death than the use of other means. In a study of suicides in one state, Hopkins et al. (1995) found that 3.2 percent of all suicide attempts resulted in death, but 78.2 percent of attempts involving firearms resulted in death. Males appear to be more likely to use firearms in suicide attempts than females. This may account for their high rate of completed suicides compared with females, in spite of females' much higher rate of suicide attempts.
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The increase in homicide rates among juveniles from the late 1980s through the early 1990s was entirely due to an increase in homicides committed with firearms by adolescents (see ). Similarly, the declining homicide rate since the mid-1990s seems to involve primarily handgun-related homicides (Blumstein and Rosenfeld, 1998). Some researchers have argued that if the increase in homicides (and other violence) by young people was due to an increased viciousness or amorality among them, then there should have been an increase in homicide rates for all weapons, not just guns, and an increase in all crimes, not just
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FIGURE 2-9 Change since 1982 in property arrest rates of 10- to 17-year-olds compared to self-reported property offense rates by high school seniors and victim reports of property offenses for all ages. Source: Arrrest rates from Federal Bureau of Investigation (1983-1999); self-report data from Monitoring the Future as reported in Maguire and Pastore (1994-1998); victim reports from the National Crime Victimization Survey, accessed online at .