TWO major studies show that juvenile crime is down dramatically, despite the recent school shootings which have appalled the nation.
"Parents are definitely frightened but it's important to remember that these are very isolated incidents," said Tom Simon, the author of one of the two studies.
His report, issued by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the number of high-school students who admitted carrying guns to school was down by 30 per cent since 1991. The number who got into fights fell by 14 per cent. The number of students who reported carrying any type of weapon fell to 18 per cent from 26 per cent in the same period.
However, the police have cautioned that the problem of youth violence had not been solved.
"Some people would respond, 'Well, if it's going down, why worry about it any more?" Attorney General Janet Reno said. "It's still unacceptably high but these figures show that we are on the right track; we can make a difference with respect to youth violence and a balanced approach of enforcement and prevention."
The second study, by a presidential commission, the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, also showed a drop in juvenile crime from 52 serious incidents for every 100,000 children five years ago to 31 per 100,000 now, the lowest rate since 1986.
"Most of the indicators are going in the right direction," said Duane Alexander, a doctor who directs the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Smoking and teenage pregnancy also have declined. But there was no change in the proportion of young people - about 4 per cent - who said they had skipped school in the previous month because they felt unsafe.