VIOLENT crime by juveniles rose by a staggering 68 percent in the four-year period between 1988 and 1992, according to a Justice Department report released yesterday.
In 1992, the department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recorded 118,600 court cases in which youths under age 18 were charged with murder, rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. Overall, the national caseload for juveniles grew by 26 percent from 1987 to 1992, and drug cases fell by 12 percent.
But the statistics on violent juvenile crime, though not unexpected, are cause for alarm, experts say.
``This is the coming of age of children whose mothers were very involved in crack,'' says Adele Harrell, a specialist on at-risk youth at the Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington.
``In some cities, 10 to 30 percent of children are not living with either parent,'' Ms Harrell adds. ``Child abuse and neglect cases are through the roof. We're seeing the results.''
Harrell also sees the influence of the gang culture among youth - not only those who belong to gangs, but the gang ``wannabes'' who carry weapons to be cool and to protect themselves.
Other points in the Justice Department report:
* Between 1988 and 1992, juvenile crimes against people increased 56 percent. Property offenses by youths rose 23 percent. Robbery charges increased by 52 percent, and aggravated assault went up by 80 percent.
* Though the number of juvenile drug cases fell by 12 percent between 1988 and 1992, the number rose by 15 percent between 1991 and 1992.
* Black juveniles accounted for a disproportionate share of charges. White juveniles were involved in 65 percent of the delinquency cases in 1992, and black juveniles were involved in 31 percent of cases. Overall, the juvenile population in 1992 was 80 percent white and 15 percent black.