Youth Crime

How can the argument that young people are propelled into crime due to circumstances beyond their control be sustained? What influences youth and community work in 2009 and what is the impact on practitioners


Youth crime takes place when the young people in the society engage themselves in criminal activities rather than in constructive activities like education. There are various causes of youth crime in the United Kingdom. Some of them include negative family dynamics, low school performance, drug abuse and drug addiction among others. Just like any other form of crime, youth crime has negative consequences to the community. These consequences include the inculcating fear among the members of the society, harming victims and destroying the lives of the youths themselves.

The severity of this crime can be gauged by the recorded rates in different years. BBC News (2009) reports that between the year 2003 and 2005, 25% of all the assault cases that were referred to the United Kingdom courts involved youthful offenders. In fact, assault is the most common crime that the youth are involved in. Criminal damage is the second most common form of crime. It accounts for 19% of all youth criminals apprehended, while theft accounts for 17% (BBC 2009).

There are several strategies that are adopted to address youth crime in the society. These strategies are adopted by either the government or non-governmental organizations. They are preventive and interventionist in nature. Preventive measures seek to divert youth crime by


Youth Crime

addressing all the risk factors that have been seen to lead to youth crime. The aim is to try and prevent the youths from engaging in crime. The others are interventional strategies. These are strategies that are adapted to deal with youth who have already committed a crime. The aim is to ensure that the youth are reformed and the likelihood of their returning back to crime is reduced. Some of these measures and strategies have been known to be successful while others, despite all the efforts that were put into them, fail to meet the targets that were specified.

This essay will address several issues surrounding youth and crime as it seeks to answer the questions outlined in the heading. Some of the issues that will be covered involve the various causes of youth crime in the society, approaches that are adopted to deal with this crime, analysis of youth community work as one of the measures that are adopted to deal with this phenomenon, theoretical perspectives informing the strategies that are adopted to deal with youth crime and the effectiveness of the strategies that have been adopted.

Throughout the essay, the writer will be guided by one major objective. This is analyzing the extent to which the argument contending that youths are propelled into crime due to circumstances beyond their control can be sustained. This will be integrated with the analysis of the influences of youth and community work as far as youth crime is concerned. To achieve these objectives, the writer will be guided by several specific objectives. These include an analysis of the causes of youth crime, analysis of the approaches adopted to address the crime and especially youth community work as an intervention strategy. Theoretical perspectives that inform the strategies will also be addressed, and another specific objective will be the analysis of the effectiveness of the various measures that are used to address this crime in society.

Before looking at the intervention and preventive strategies that are adopted by various members of the society to address youth crime, it will be important to first look at some of the causes of this phenomenon in the society. This way, the discourse that will follow will be effectively contextualized. There are various risk factors that are identified as being associated with the likelihood of youth crime. These are identified as some of the social conditions that pertain to family dynamics, housing, income and education of the youth.


Youth Crime

The role that the family plays as far as the rate of crime in the society is concerned cannot be ignored. This institution is tasked with the role of raising responsible and functional members of the society. It is when the institution the family fails to achieve this that youth crime is instead attained. A history of dysfunctional family dynamics has been connected with the emergence of delinquency in the future (Tarot 2007).

Parental inadequacy is such one family dysfunction that has been known to cause youth crime. This is when the parents do not provide the children with the needed guidance and love. The parents fail to play their role as guides to the developing youth. Another family dysfunction that leads to youth crime is parental conflict (Adamson 2009). When a child grows up in a household where violence and conflict are the order of the day, he tends to adopt them too. In future, he will tend to display signs of violence, leading to crime. The reason for this is that children learn by aping what the significant other in the society is doing. The most important significant others for the children is the parent. When the parent is violent, the child will tend to copy that behaviour, thinking that because of the fact that it is been practiced by the parent, it must be right. Violence is one prerequisite for youth crime, since most of the criminal activities display a violent disposition on the part of the perpetrator. Parental criminality has also been associated with youth crime (Adamson 2009). When the child realises that one of the parents is a criminal, he tends to ape them, given that the parents act like the role models for the child. The child may grow up in a household where police are always present and one or both of the parents are always in conflict with them. He will grow up aping the behaviour patterns of the parents, leading to the child engaging in crime in the future. Communication breakdown within the family also leads to crime. This is because when the child or the youth has no one to consult within the family about their problems, they will turn to their friends and the advice of their peers is more negative than positive. This is especially so when the youth is living within a neighbourhood that is known for crime. The friends that he has will tend to be involved in criminal activities like drug abuse and theft, and so if he consults them on a problem that he has, they are likely to take this opportunity to initiate the youth to their group. The youth will end up adopting the behaviour patterns of this group.

The dynamics of the family may fall to the extent that abuse and neglect directed towards the children becomes a normal fixture of their life (Guerra 2004). This, coupled with family violence, is also a contributory factor to youth crime.


Youth Crime

Social environment encompasses those features and attributes that are to be found within our societies. These are the beliefs and values held dear by the community. It is important to note that the social environment that does exist within the society is a reflection of that society’s values, aspirations and the expectations from its members.

When there is inequality within that society, when power is usurped by a few and the family and other vital institutions are not given the required support, the result is a spike in the rate of crime in that society (Guerra 2009). If this happens in a society that has a considerably large number of youths that are ignored, the result is that the youths will likely resort to crime. The Social environment also encompasses the type of neighbourhood within which the youth lives. If he makes friends that are truants and disposed to crime, through peer pressure, the youth will also become a criminal as he tries to fit in and be accepted in that group (Adamson 2009).

Poverty manifests itself in a number of ways. A family that has no resources is unable to educate their youth. A society with no resources has no jobs for the youth and hence, cannot support them economically. Another manifestation of poverty is poor housing and discrimination against the poor (Tarot 2007). Poor housing facilities encourage crime as the youth try to improve their lives. The poor are also discriminated against. This is for example when it comes to education. A youth from a poor family will more likely not get a good education, and this will lead him to crime.

All of these are contributory factors to youth crime. When the youth does not have employment, he has no hope and thus, he will end up being attracted to crime. When the youth lacks education, the only option that is left for him is crime; that is the only way that he can make a living. Services are also denied the poor and as such, the poor youth finds it hard to access social and other services such as employment and career advancement. Due to frustrations, he hits back on society by becoming a criminal. The perpetrator may not be aware of the fact that they are hitting back on the society due to their frustrations emanating from the same society. But a professional look at their behaviour and the context within which the behaviour is conducted will prove that this is a retaliation measure.


Youth Crime

Given the fact that youth crime has been identified as a major societal ill, there are several responses that have been adopted by society to address it. This is after the realisation that the problem will not disappear on its own and thus, the community at large has felt the need to take a proactive role in combating it (Benjamin 2009).

The responses that the society adopts are either preventive or interventionist in nature. Many of the programs that are adopted are aimed at mitigating the rate of youth crime in the society. However, it should be noted that there is a need to adopt measures that will also prevent such instances in the society.

Society should adopt measures that are aimed at preventing youth crime. This is as opposed to measures that are aimed at responding or reacting to the same. For example, police suppression of youth crime can be conceptualized as a reactive move towards the vice. It has to be noted that reactionary moves are more harmful than they are helpful. A youth who spends most of his time in jail ends up becoming a worse criminal than when he could have been rehabilitated (Ahumada 2007).

Youth crime can be tied to the environment that the child experiences within society. As such, it is very important to ensure that as a preventative measure, the child’s environment is conducive for their development into responsible adults (Garner 2007). Problems arise when the political class, denies the family institutions resources to cater for their young. This denies the child the proper care and development that they will have experienced.

Those who take a preventive stand towards youth crime operate on the mantra that the criminal of the future is more often than not the vulnerable child of the present (Goldsmith and Jamieson 2003). These are the children that are facing considerable social, emotional and behavioural challenges today. When the resources that are availed to these children fail to meet these challenges, they are likely to develop into youths and adults that are impaired.


Youth Crime

Three tiers of prevention of youth crime have been identified. They are primary prevention, secondary and tertiary preventions. Primary prevention realizes the fact that the wellbeing of the whole community is necessary for the healthy development of every individual within that society, including the youth. As such, the efforts are geared towards averting risk conditions from stemming in the very first place (Ahumada 2007).

The programs that are adopted in this case include provision of proper housing, parenting advice and family support among others. These and other services should be made available and accessible to all the vulnerable families before any of the problems associated with youth crime are observed (Tarot 2007). Primary prevention has been hailed as one of the best response techniques. This is because it reduces costs, both financial and social, in the future. For example, when a youth is supported at a relatively young age and he does not develop criminal attributes, there will be no need for the government to spend money incarcerating him in the future and in fact, he will add to the benefits of the community by earning his own money in a creative manner.

Secondary approach is adopted after certain warning signs are identified (Burton 2006). The crime has not yet developed fully but the youth exhibit traits and signs that are associated with criminal activities. These are for example programs that are adapted to focus on a certain problem or problem group that has been identified by the implementers of the program (Burton 2006).

Some indicative signs among the youth that call for the adoption of such a program include lack of respect for the school administration, truancy and other such behavioural patterns. These signs can be intervened and the youth will not develop criminal attributes if the program is successful. For example, the kid who is noted to be violent in school is counselled before the violence is extended to the rest of the society. It is paramount in this juncture that if the violence gets out to the public, the repercussions will not be positive to the youth because he will be now treated like a full criminal. A full criminal is that who is identified as been engaged in criminal activities on a full time basis; crime is his way of life.


Youth Crime

The third tier of youth crime prevention is the tertiary one. This is when the law administrators are called in to deal with crime emanating from the youth. The law administrators include the police, the courts and the penitentiary system. The crime is so developed such that it is not confined to those that are nearest the youth, for example the school and the family but it is now directed at the whole society (McNeil 2008). This form of response is not so much as preventive as it is reactive. The youth is apprehended by the law and in more cases, they are taken to jail. The action is termed as preventive because it is assumed that the youth will be prevented from committing any crime when they are incarcerated. Selsky describes this as crime prevention after the fact (2004). This is because the youth has already broken the law. It is a fact that the measure will ensure that the youth will not commit a crime for the time being. But the fact that they have already committed a crime cannot be ignored; the crime cannot be undone.

The adoption of youth work as an intervention technique is more often than not associated with the United Kingdom. In this society, it is defined as the process of creating a conducive environment within which youths are able to involve themselves with informal educational activities like leadership building (Gellman 2007).

This form of response to youth crime takes different forms, some of them being; centre-based work, detached work, school based work and realign based work programs (Gellman 2007). Each of these approaches has inherent benefits that accrue to the youth and the society as a whole and the most appropriate for the occasion is chosen. The programs are adapted deliberately to impact on the lives of the youth. A case in point is the Ireland Youth Work Act of 2001. This act is worded in this way:

“’youth work’ is a planned program of education. The program is so designed such that it aids and enhances the personal and social development of the youth. This is through their voluntary participation into the program. It complements, rather than competes with their formal education. It is also provided largely by voluntary work organizations” (Balitza 2006).

The aim of the program as far as youth crime is concerned is that it tends to provide the youths


Youth Crime

with an alternative course of action to the crime. It is a primary preventive measure in that it is adopted before the signs of hooliganism are identified in the youth. It is also useful in ensuring that if the criminal tendencies have not yet developed, they will not then develop under any circumstances (Selsky 2004). It avails resources, like vocational training to the youth, resources that had been hitherto denied

The following are the approaches that are adopted by the youth work in the United Kingdom. These approaches are seen to have a direct or indirect impact on the criminality of the youth and prevention of it thereof.

The first is community youth work. The aim of this approach is to provide the young people with community based activities that are aimed at creating a bond between the youth and the community (Lehman 2007). This is conducted within the local communities in diverse settings. The settings include worship locations, non-governmental and governmental agencies (Lehman 2007). When the youth develops a bond with the community, he will not adopt behaviours that will harm the same community. As such, criminal activities, being behaviours that harm the community, will be shunned by the youth.

The second are youth empowerment programs. This involves an intentional granting of power, control and authority to the youth by the adult segment of the society (Redfern 2008). This is for example giving the youth the chance to lead in organizing, implementing and evaluation of programs. One advantage of this approach is the positive development of engagement of the youth in activities pertaining to the community.

The youth becomes responsible after some powers and authorities are delegated to them. A responsible youth is not likely to partake in criminal activities and this is the connection between this program and prevention of youth crime.


Youth Crime

Centre based youth work means that the youth work is conducted at a centralized location (Lester 2005). This is for example in sports centres and such other centralized locations where the youths are able to come together for beneficial activities like training and advice. This is where the youth clubs come in. The program relies on the willingness of the youth to avail themselves to the centres. As far as crime is concerned, the youths are able to interact with their peers in a positive manner. As such, instead of peer pressure leading to negativities like crime, it leads to positive outcomes like participating in sports in the club (Lester 2005).

4. Faith-Based Youth Work

Faith based youth work are form of activities that are carried out from, or by, organizations that are faith-based. The activities are grounded on religious morals and views (Lester 2005). For example, the youth may be taught biblical teachings like “love your neighbour” and told to integrate them into their everyday lives. The youths are given a chance to grow spiritually. This is the form of youth work that is generally practiced in Northern Ireland. This is given the fact 64% of these activities are based and grounded in religion (Garner 2007).

When it comes to crime, the role that these activities play cannot be ignored. Given the fact that the youths are taught to love their neighbours, they will not engage in activities that will show hatred or lack of concern towards their neighbours.

There are forms of youth work, for example detached and outreach. Detached programs take place where the youths are to be found and are not centralized. This is the same with outreach programs. These two programs prevent crime, or mitigate it, by accessing the youths and making them feel that they are needed by the society; they are not ignored (Garner 2007). School based work programs occur in schools and are very influential in youth development t by ensuring that the youth’s development is all rounded as they are integrated by other systems in the formal learning institutions.


Youth Crime

Just like any other social activity, responses to youth crime are grounded in some form of theoretical framework. This framework is the one that informs the practitioners as they conduct this form of intervention in the society.

Labelling theory is one of those that inform responses to youth crime prevention tactics. The main argument of this theory is that the labels that the society gives the individual influence the behaviour of that same individual. The individual internalizes that label and his life, every action that he takes, is aimed at living the label. This is especially so if the label conferred to the individual is of a stigmatizing or of negative nature. The person who is so labelled has no alternative course of action but to conform to the expectations of the society that are purveyed by the label so given.

In this respect, if the youth is labelled as been a criminal, he will live up to that label and adopt behavioural techniques that are criminal in nature. This is what Balitza (2006) calls the self-prophecy of the labelling theory. This is what happens when the youth is taken to court because of committing a crime. Everyone in society, including the youth himself, knows that jails are for criminals and everyone who gets in there is a criminal. As such, even after leaving the jail, the youth will be referred to as a criminal by the rest of the society and he will adopt that label and live up to it. Youth crime intervention and prevention programs try to dissuade this labelling by reversing it. They try to show the youths that they are not criminals. When the youths see a person in the society who regards them as normal humans but not as criminals or potential criminals, they will tend to adopt and live up to that label, the positive one. The upshot of this is that crime is reduced in the society as far as the youths are concerned.

The above stated approaches have had some measure of success in mitigating and preventing youth crime in the society.

For example, the government in 2009 claimed that over the last two years, the rate of youth


Youth Crime

crime has dropped by 10.2% (Benjamin 2009). This is between 2007 and 2009. It has also been proven that social interventions to youth crime are more beneficial in mitigating it. Within ten years, the rate of crime emanating from the youth has dropped by between 25% and 50% in Northern Ireland (Clarke & Broady 2003).

As identified earlier, measures used to address youth crime range from preventive to interventionist. Preventive include adopting programs aimed stopping the criminal disposition from developing in the youth, while interventionist measures include those that are used to rehabilitate a youth who has already involved themselves in criminal activities.