Decision to Arrest

Want to look at arrests that lead to both municipal and district court involvement, by race and ethnicity. 

Pertinent Materials to Review:


What are the sources of referrals? What are the patterns for each source:

  • Local Law Enforcement agencies (by specific jurisdiction)
  • Other agencies such as child welfare
  • Institutions such as shopping centers, major stores, park police, etc
  • Parents / families
  • Probation offices (technical violations, new offenses)
  • Police/sheriff department’s policy(ies) on juvenile arrests
  • School(s) Policy on referrals to law enforcement (when does a discipline problem become a criminal matter)
    • Disengagement with school
    • Truancy
    • Drop outs
    • Graduation rates
  • Suspensions
  • Expulsions
  • Criminalizing School Infractions

Data on Decision to arrest or issue a citation

  • Severity of offense, by race and ethnicity
  • Prior/secure confinements/arrests, by race and ethnicity
  • How many youth by race and ethnicity are on probation at the time of arrest or citation?

Alternatives to Arrest:

Are there alternatives that are used by officers:

(If so, what are the usage patterns, are there geographic issues, do these programs have screening criteria?)

  • Shelters (homeless, detox, etc)
  • Referral or Assessment centers
  • Referrals to organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs, after school programs,
  • ‘Diversion’ programs like a shoplifting school, traffic schools, ‘theft talk’ etc
  • Community-Based Services
  • Access to Mental Health Services
  • Access to Substance Abuse Treatment

Geographic hotspots for arrests


  • Zip codes of offenders’ homes
  • Zip codes where offenses took place


  • Are there zip codes where most arrests are taking place?
  • Are the offenders coming from predominately a few areas?
  • What opportunities exist for youth in those areas?
  • What prevention/intervention programs are accessible to youth in those areas?
  • Is there access to mental health and substance abuse services in these areas?

Difference in arrest by offense type and ethnicity


Time of day of arrests


Determine the time of day for most juvenile arrests by ethnicity


Are there differences by ethnicity in the time of day and/or day of week that arrests are occurring?

Number of arrests on warrants/type of warrants


Type of warrant youth are being arrested for, by race and ethnicity: Failure to Appear, Failure to Comply, Municipal or District warrants.


Are there differences in the types of warrants youth are arrested for by race and ethnicity?


Any other factors that lead to an automatic arrest?

Possible explanations for DMC:

  • Is there selective enforcement?
  • Indirect effects of socio-economic factors (income, wealth in area, family structure, school systems)

Public policies that affect arrest (attention to zones around schools, drug-free zones, etc.)

  • Institutional practices
  • School push-out policies
  • Calls for service (who calls the police, what types of things are handled as nonlaw enforcement issues, what are the geographic patterns of calls)

Other areas to look at:

Subjective Decision Making (how do officers make judgments about routine stops, who to question, etc)
Differential Offending (who belongs to gangs, which groups have higher involvement in crime, different types of crime and greater recidivism)

Differential Administrative Policies and Practices
How Many Youth Have Had Child Welfare involvement (do youth of color have more CW involvement?)
How Many Youth of Color Have Access to Health Care Including Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment