The Nirbhaya case shaped the public perception of juvenile violence, prompting a 2015 ruling that juveniles above 16 would be tried as adults in all “heinous crimes”. But how common is violent crime committed by juveniles? Increasingly so, it turns out. In the last decade (from 2006 to 2016), juvenile rapes have increased by more than threefold, while juvenile murder has increased almost twofold (even adjusting for population growth during that period).
The data shows that almost 6% of all rapes are committed by persons under 18. Delhi is the worst affected, with 18 cases of juvenile violence against women per million population. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh and Sikkim follow in the rankings. The violent crime rankings are almost identical, except for Maharashtra claiming the 5th spot from Sikkim
Juvenile delinquency in the country accounts for about 1% of all crime, according to the latest report from the National Crime Record Bureau. This proportion has more or less held steady since 2000, when the age bar to be tried as a juvenile was first raised from 16 to 18. Recent years have seen a marginal improvement, with total registered juvenile crime in 2016 (38,455) declining 7% from 2014. This is against a background of overall crime increase by 6% in the same period.
The static numbers at the national level belie the varying successes on the state level in tackling juvenile crime. Half of all states had their total juvenile crime increase in the 2014-16 period. Puducherry saw an extraordinary 350% rise in the two years in question. J&K and Tamil Nadu also saw significant increases in this time (94% and 4% respectively).
While Delhi and Maharashtra saw more modest increases in the same period, their cases are perhaps worthier of note because their baseline crime rates are already very high. Delhi has the highest crime rate in the country, while Maharashtra comes in 5th. On the flip side, half of all states saw declines in juvenile crime incidents, and in many cases, remarkable declines. Goa, Gujarat, Tripura, Punjab and West Bengal all cut down crime incidence by half or more. Kerala and Bihar followed close behind with 48% and 47% decreases respectively.
While Delhi happens to hold the top spot for overall crime rate as well, there appears to be no general relationship between juvenile and adult crimes rates. For instance, Kerala has the second highest overall crime rate but ranks 20th in juvenile crime. Chandigarh, on the other hand, has the third highest juvenile crime rate but ranks 21st in overall crime. All in all, only three of the top ten states for juvenile crime feature in the top ten states for overall crime.
As for other possible indicators of juvenile crime, we found no correlation between the state’s per capita income, literacy levels and juvenile crime rate. Further, on an individual level, we saw no evidence that literacy, the degree of education and homelessness status had a significant bearing on the propensity for crime amongst adolescents.
The one factor that stood out was gender, which was by far the biggest indicator of juvenile crime. 95% of all crime and a staggering 99% of violent crime was committed by boys. In no category were girls the majority offenders; the only crimes that girls contributed to significantly were human trafficking (29% of cases) and forgery (16% of cases). The most common crimes committed by boys (and for juveniles overall) were theft, criminal trespass and rape. For girls, the most common crimes were theft, criminal trespass and grievous hurt, but these all amounted to under 5% of total cases in each category.