The Development of Police-reported Delinquency Among Canadian Youth Born in 1987 and 1990

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By Peter J. Carrington, University of Waterloo

This report examines the development over childhood and adolescence of the recorded criminal activity of two cohorts of Canadians, born in 1987 and 1990. The data are drawn from the Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2) for 1995 to 2005. During that period, the UCR2 received information on crime and offenders from police services in six provinces, which provided policing services to about half of the population of Canada. This is the first large-scale developmental study of delinquency in Canada based on police-reported data.

The results are generally consistent with the findings of similar research in other countries, and of earlier Canadian research based on court records. Recorded delinquency is fairly widespread among Canadian teenagers. By the 18th birthday, just under one-fifth of the 1987 birth cohort—one-quarter of boys and one-eighth of girls—had been recorded by police as chargeable in a criminal incident, although not all were formally charged. The research tracked children born in 1990 from the 5th birthday, and found that very few children under 12 were recorded by police as offenders.

Most child and adolescent offenders committed very few recorded offences, which were concentrated in the less serious types of crime: minor theft and other minor property offences, and minor assaults. A majority of offenders born in 1987 committed only one recorded offence up to their 18th birthday. A minority (10%) committed five or more recorded offences. These "chronic offenders" averaged 11 offences each, and were responsible as a group for almost half (46%) of all recorded crime committed by members of the cohort. There was little evidence of specialization in one type of crime by the offenders in this study, and most of that was in property offences. There was no evidence of a progression by individual offenders from less to more serious types of crime.

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