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Study Shows Nearly 1 in 3 will be arrested by age 23

Arrested by 23? It’s not as rare as you may think.

A study co-authored by a UNC Charlotte criminologist shows that almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime by the age of 23.

The study, the first since the 1960s to look at the arrest histories of a national sample of young adults over time, found that 30.2 percent of the 23-year-olds who participated reported having been arrested for an offense other than a minor traffic violation.

The study shows a growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.

Those taking the study included a wide variety of offenses ranging from truancy, vandalism, underage drinking, and shoplifting to robbery, assault and murder.

Criminologist Megan Kurlychek credits today’s higher encounters with police at an early age to the shrinking tolerance many police have for teenage behavior.

The study involved a sample of people who were 12 to 16 in 1997. They were interviewed yearly until 2008 by government researchers, who asked them whether they’d ever been arrested or taken into police custody. The number who said “yes” is considerably higher than the 22 percent found in a 1965 study that examined the same issue.

However, even though the percentage has risen, researchers say that it’s more a reflection of the current culture than the youth. In the 1960’s it was less likely for young people to be arrested for drugs and domestic violence than it is today. Similarly, more high schools enforce a zero-tolerance policy for violence and fighting, which has greatly increased the amount of teenage arrests.


By:  Pete Strom, South Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney



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