|Juvenile offending is on the rise and there have been talks about youth crime prevention and intervention. Governments of different nations have directed their efforts not only to individuals, but also to families, peer groups, communities, and schools to prevent young people from turning to delinquency / Photo by: Francisco Javier Trapero Alonso via 123RF|
Juvenile offending is on the rise and there have been talks about youth crime prevention and intervention. Governments of different nations have directed their efforts not only to individuals, but also to families, peer groups, communities, and schools to prevent young people from turning to delinquency.
Relationships Based on Trust and Attentiveness
A long-term study funded for nearly 20 years has revealed that good relationships based on trust and attentiveness between friends, family members, teachers, and schoolchildren are particularly effective in combating juvenile crime. The study led by criminologist Prof. Klaus Boers from the University of Münster in Germany and sociologist Prof. Jost Reinecke from the University of Bielefeld highlights that even problematic youth offenders can stop committing even violent crimes the moment they reach early adulthood. What is important is they are supported by positive development employing appropriate actions and pedagogical (educational) measures on the part of the courts and the police.
From 2002 to 2019, the researchers contacted about 3,000 people living in Duisburg, Germany. These participants were between 13 and 30 years old. During the initial part of the study, the participants were asked questions every year and later only every two years. The questions were about the crimes they had committed themselves, their lifestyles, values, and attitudes The reports of offenses from the young people were not treated by the researchers as official statistics but they gained insights into the field of crime happening in the city.
As part of their light-field data, the team also evaluated the information about cases and convictions that were dismissed by the courts. Prof. Boers and the team believe that although they focused on one city alone, the data and findings can be applied in other cities in Germany.
Results show that occasional acts of low-level violent crime or thefts are common among boys in their late childhood (28%) to mid-teens (25%). However, these low-level crimes are also committed by girls in their late childhood (22%) and mid-teens (14%). What they observed though is that the moment these participants reach adolescence, the majority of them no longer show delinquent behavior. Girls stop youth crime earlier compared to boys. Prof. Boers theorized that the sharp reduction in the number of youth crimes in the city happens because of standard socialization and educational processes.
Teachers and parents of the offenders are more attentive to them. The young ones are also exposed to clubs, groups, and friends that they kind of sort things themselves. The researchers believe that when society reacts in an appropriate (pedagogically) way to youth crimes, young offenders will also begin to accept what the social norms are.
The study welcomes the idea that the criminal law in Germany relating to youth crime enables courts and public prosecutors to prioritize the corrective efforts that parents, groups, and teachers offer the offender.
Zero-Tolerance Strategy for Youth Offenders
The team said via science and technology platform Phys.org that the zero-tolerance strategy for youth offenders would counteract the positive effect of responding pedagogically to first minor offenses. In another study conducted by US-based nonprofit Justice Policy Institute (JPI), dedicated to reducing the use of incarceration and promotes effective and fair policies in the justice system, it highlights that zero-tolerance “doesn’t make communities safer.” They believe that there are residual psychological effects of detention that reach beyond childhood, such as difficulties in obtaining educational and employment opportunities. Several children separated from their families because of detention likewise fled trauma and violence and ended up becoming “inconsolable” or “eerily quiet.”
JPI cited a case of a 19-year-old offender who was detained after a verbal disagreement in high school. Soon, the young boy became suicidal as he would try to wrap a sheet around his neck. The study shows that zero-tolerance detention harms children more rather than helps them.
Juvenile Crime: Statistics
In the US, the number of serious violent crimes committed by youth aged 12 to 17 from 1980 to 2017 has also declined. From 1993 levels where youth crime hit its peak (more than 1.1 million serious crimes), it declined in 1998 (616,000), 1999 (610,000), 2000 (412,000), 2006 (443,000), 2010 (231,000), 2014 (174,000), and 2017 (215,000).
Juvenile courts in the US also handle about 1.4 million delinquency cases involving children below 18, charged with violations of US criminal law. The country has a larger share of the youth population compared to other developed countries so considering its statistics in juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has been ideal for researchers. Previous research also shows that juvenile crime rates increase after school hours, but most of these involve unsupervised youngsters’ experiments with alcohol, sex, drugs, and tobacco. Teens that are unsupervised after school hours are also more likely to become teen parents, the study added.
Factors Why Juvenile Crimes Occur
This is why parents are encouraged to be familiar with the threats that teens are facing so they can determine the red flags in their children’s behavior. That way, they can also quickly intervene. Since a teenage brain is not yet fully developed and it lacks the maturity of judgment and knowledge to make good decisions on their own, parents should recognize that their teens need supervision. Among the factors why juvenile crime occurs are peer pressure, poor education, negligent parents, and substance abuse.
Peer pressure is at the top of the list as teens undergo various changes. Teens want to be independent and be accepted by their social groups and peers. So, to fit in, they would submit to peer pressure. If it is of negative influence, the teenager can engage in risky behaviors and criminal activity is one of them.
Establishing good relationships with young adults is indeed helpful, more so if trust and attentiveness come from parents, who can guide their kids more on their social and personal development. Parents should also know that teens often follow examples from their other family members and not just their social groups so it is important to instill moral values in them while in their formative years.