Friday Facts: Juvenile Felony Arrest Rate in Santa Clara County

Author Details

David Dexter

Communications Coordinator

Organization: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

Go to California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

Welcome to Friday Facts! Each week we’ll be taking a look at a specific chart from the Data & Resources section of our website. This week we’re focusing on the juvenile felony arrest rate in Santa Clara County.

As the economy in the Bay Area continues to grow, few places are reaping the benefits as much as Santa Clara County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in the county is $91,702, about $30,000 more than the statewide median. In addition, the median value of owner-occupied housing units in Santa Clara County is $645,600, nearly twice the state median of $366,400.

These numbers, coupled with the fact that the county’s population is roughly two-thirds communities of color, would make it seem like a great land of opportunity for all residents. But there are still stark disparities in the county along racial and ethnic lines. 

Today’s Friday Facts table shows one of the more striking disparities in Santa Clara County: the juvenile felony arrest rate. As you can see, African American juveniles in the county are more than eight times as likely to be arrested for a felony than their White counterparts (38.0 per 1,000 compared to 4.7). The Latino juvenile felony arrest rate (15.4 per 1,000) is more than three times that of Whites.

We discussed crime and violence and their impact on health in our Landscape of Opportunity report:

“Crime and violence in our communities have many different roots, but a lack of jobs and income, oppression, and poor mental health are among the most prevalent. The experience of crime can directly affect health through bodily harm, economic hardship, and emotional trauma. Fear of crime can indirectly affect health by increasing stress and social isolation, and preventing physical activity and access to services.”

Disparities in income are noticeable in Santa Clara County. While it is home to some of the state’s richest residents and corporations, that wealth does not translate to all who live there. More than one out of every five African American and Latino children live in poverty, a rate more than four times that of White children. Such disparities in income and opportunity are some of the driving factors that create this disproportionate level of interactions with the criminal justice system in the county. 

As we recommended in the Landscape of Opportunity, in order to reduce some of these disparities, we need to shift our focus from punishment and incarceration to prevention and opportunity. Through youth engagement, job training, and after school activities we can provide youth with leadership opportunities and help reduce violence. We also need to acknowledge that there are racial disparities in our criminal justice system and take steps to address them. From contact with police officers on the street all the way through incarceration, we need to recognize the role that race plays and encourage greater communication between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It’s a tough task, but as the disparities in one of the state’s most economically prosperous counties indicate, it should be a priority for all of us.