When two 6-year-olds in Florida were arrested at school, many people were outraged that children that young were taken into custody—but it may be more common than most people think. ABC News broke down FBI crime stats from 2013 to 2017 and found that over that five-year span, nearly 27,000 kids under the age of 10 were arrested. Adding in kids between the ages of 10 and 12 in that same period, that number spikes to more than 228,000. The one spot of good news is that those figures for the youngest set have been on a steady decline since 2014, which saw 6,458 children under 10 arrested; by 2018, which ABC didn’t include in its analysis, that number had dropped to 3,501.
ABC notes different states have various minimum ages in which children can be charged with delinquency, with the majority having no minimum at all. About half of the states have no minimum age in which juvenile cases can be sent to adult criminal court instead. Particularly worrisome, per ABC, are school arrests (it details some examples), which put the spotlight on racial disparity and training for school officers. “There are a lot of studies that talk about the effect of trauma on child development and arresting a 7-year-old, putting them in handcuffs, and taking them out of school—that’s trauma, and trauma disrupts normal development,” says Karol Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Is this child going to definitely wind up in the criminal justice system? No. But are you increasing the likelihood that it could happen because of this? Yes.” (Read more arrests stories.)