DOJ Report: Youthful Co-Offenders Require Special Attention

PHILADELPHIA, A recent report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice and National Institute of Justice recommends that young co-offenders (delinquents who commit crimes with others) receive special attention from the criminal justice system.

Co-Offending and Patterns of Juvenile Crime, a report by E. Waring and D. Weisburd covers several patterns of crime related to co-offending juveniles. The report focuses on how co-offending is related to three patterns: the age of the offenders, recidivism and violence.

It also states that ignoring co-offending when computing crime rates may produce severely misleading reports about crime and the effects of incarceration. The report recommends that police inquire about co-offending and record all participants in a crime.

Some highlights of the report include:

  • Offenders age 13 and younger are more likely to commit crimes in pairs and groups than are 16- and 17-year-old offenders
  • Approximately 40 percent of juvenile offenders commit most of their crime with others
  • Co-offenders are more likely than solo offenders to be recidivists
  • When very young co-offenders were compared with very young solo offenders, only the co-offenders had high rates of recidivism and only the co-offenders committed high numbers of violent crimes
  • Co-offending may increase the likelihood that offenders will commit violent crimes
  • Eighty percent of those who commit crimes with violent offenders, even if the group does not commit violent crimes, are likely to commit violent crimes in the future. For those with nonviolent accomplices, the rate drops to 56 percent.
  • Among 16- and 17-year-old offenders, violent crimes were almost twice as likely to be co-offenses as solo offenses
  • Co-offending enables delinquents to classify criminal actions as appropriate, partially through finding that others think it is normal to commit crimes (negative peer learning)
  • When co-offenders are involved in a crime, the event is often reported multiple times (a report for each participant arrest), exaggerating the contributions of youthful offenders to crimes. This also distorts estimates of effects from various crime prevention policies.

The report states that targeting youthful co-offenders could be the most productive approach to reducing future crime.

A copy of this report is available online at

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