We can then make a speculation on the future and offer recommendations to confront this unique challenge.
In the last 200 years in the United States, children have held a special status within the framework of the law. However, the age at which they were considered juveniles has been subject to change over the years. In the early 1800s, most children that we consider to be juveniles today were treated as adults under the law. As late as 1827, a child at the age of 10 was considered to be of age to accept full adult criminal responsibility under the law in Illinois (Ferro 2003 p.3). In fact, the term 'delinquency' did not appear in US law until the turn of the twentieth century as social upheaval transformed our urban areas and juvenile crime became more prevalent and problematic. During this period, industrialization had brought people together in large urban areas from all over the country and the world seeking employment in the newly established factories in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Detroit. Social pressures and poverty fueled rising crime in the general population. This rise in crime among adults was mirrored in the juvenile population.
States have often held great authority over the handling of juvenile crime. Delinquents would often be relegated to poorhouses, county farms, or reform schools. But by the 1920s, America was more cognizant of juvenile crime and its effect on the established social order. The move to the Sun Belt during the 1930s and 1940s magnified the problem in cities such as Los Angeles and Phoenix. Crime statistics from this period are largely fragmented and anecdotal. However, there was a concern among the population about the growing juvenile delinquency problem. President Herbert Hoover created the Wickersham Commission to investigate the rising crime rate. The report issued in 1931 found that, "...turf wars were being waged in America's large cities by rival criminal groups fighting for control of bootleg liquor distribution" (Ferro 2003 p.4). Gang crime and their influence on juveniles continues to dominate the juvenile delinquency issue.
The post World War II era saw a beginning of the rise in adult crime that was echoed by juvenile delinquency. Access to media, technology, and mobility has contributed to the problem. Beginning in 1960, there was an increase in juvenile delinquency that peaked in the early 1990s (Ferro 2003 p.4). However, beginning in 1980 there was also a rapid escalation in the violence of juvenile crime and the reported incidents of gang activity and guns. Between 1978 and 1993 violent crime by juveniles rose 79% and the murders committed by juveniles soared by 177% (Levitt 1998 p.1156). Though the overall juvenile crime rate has gone down in recent years, the rates of more serious and violent crimes have not seen as dramatic of a decline. According to statistics complied by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 2001-2005 the total violent crime rate among juveniles has dropped, but forcible rape has not experienced the same decline (Sourcebook of criminal justice statistics 2006). Much of the prevalence of violent juvenile crime has come as a result of, or can be attributed to, gang activity (Ferro 2003 p.5). Juveniles in contact with gang members, whether peers or family members, may emulate their activity even though they may not be a member of a gang.