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Theft and Juvenile Delinquency: Where Are Teens Most Likely to Steal?

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Theft and Juvenile Delinquency: Where Are Teens Most Likely to Steal?
August 20, 2019

Theft and Juvenile Delinquency: Where Are Teens Most Likely to Steal?

When your brain is still developing, it can be hard to make every decision a good one. And the more risk factors you’ve faced, the more likely you are to make a bad one--and land at the police station for it.

But there’s hope for children and teens who have committed crimes—rehab programs that take a therapeutic approach can help them reverse course, and juvenile justice advocates work hard to give them a second chance.

Below are the top 10 states with the lowest and highest juvenile crime rates, specifically for theft.


We found the juvenile crime rate in each state by searching the OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book (2017) for the number of arrests made per 100,000 young persons between the ages of 10 and 17. We limited our results to crimes of theft, which the OJJDP divides into larceny (stealing from a car, porch, or person without threatening them) or robbery (stealing by force or threat of force). Finally, we scored and ranked each state.

Important Considerations 

> Nebraska, Illinois, and New Mexico were not included due to low reporting percentages.

> No single conclusion can be made about a state or its residents based on juvenile delinquency rates. Arrest numbers depend on policing style, judiciary trends, and community expectations, to name just three factors.

Data Highlights

  • West Virginia has the lowest juvenile larceny arrest rate (151 per 100,000 youth) of the 47 states we looked at. Louisiana, the state with the highest rate, has about eight times more arrests (1,173 arrests per 100,000 youth).
  • Vermont has the lowest juvenile robbery arrest rate (just 2 per 100,000 youth). Maryland has the highest rate (205 per 100,000).
  • Nationwide, 60 of every 100,000 youth were arrested for robbery, and 527 of every 100,000 youth were arrested for larceny.
  • Three-fifths of youths arrested by police are referred to a court with juvenile jurisdiction. The other two-fifths may be referred to other services, like drug or behavioral rehab, or have their cases dismissed.
  • Juvenile delinquency is trending down nationwide. In 2017, US juvenile courts handled the fewest number of cases since the mid-1970s.


(Rank Note: 1 = Highest Juvenile Theft Rate, 47 = Lowest)

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Juvenile delinquency happens, in some places more than others, but it’s on the decline. Do your parenting homework, set healthy boundaries with potentially bored youths, and then feel free to believe in America’s future.

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