A Dip in a Demographic Timebomb

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WASHINGTON: U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno released unexpected statistics showing that young people are committing fewer violent crimes for the first time in ten years. Last year, for every 100,000 juveniles, 511.9 were arrested for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault or other violent crimes. For the previous year, the figure per 100,000 was 527.4. The 2.9 percent drop is the first decline since 1987 in the combined rate for these felonies. Murder statistics have also fallen among 10-to-17-year-olds for the second consecutive year, and are now 22.8 percent below the 1993 level. Despite the encouraging numbers, police are still worried about the expected 17 percent increase in the teenage population over the next ten years. Since the majority of violent crimes are committed by young men, the rise is a potential demographic time bomb. "It is too early to tell if the decline is merely a blip, or an actual trend," says TIME's Elaine Rivera. "But it is consistent with a general decline in crime in cities across the country. The real question is whether federal, state, and city governments will continue long term youth programs shown to be helpful in addressing the problems young people have and combating crime. When we see consistent support of these programs, that is when we should also see a serious decline in the juvenile crime rate." -->