Tackling youth crime
The Conservative-affiliated British think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, has launched a "comprehensive and radical inquiry" into youth gang crime. The launch highlights the continuing problems of social disconnection, family breakdown and crime that are perplexing not just Britain but the entire Western world, including New Zealand.
The inquiry comes from a growing concern about trends in youth gang crime, and the lack of direction on what to do about it. Alarming statistics include that the "most likely person to be equipped with a knife is a boy aged 14-19 years old," that "1504 of the young people held in custody are 16 years old or younger," and that "three-quarters of male offenders aged between 18 and 21 re-offend within two years." The Centre suggests that these statistics stem from "high levels of family breakdown, school failure in the inner cities and teenage drug and alcohol abuse."
The inquiry seeks to develop long-term solutions, combining both "carrots as well as sticks." It seeks not just to punish, but to prevent; encouraging young people to become connected members of their community, and eliminating the need to find acceptance and family within the gang culture. The suggestion is that while enforcement strategies such as the "zero tolerance" approach in New York may go some way to controlling crime, this should be balanced with developing and encouraging clubs, facilities and events for youths to be involved in, which will help in "giving young people a genuine stake in society."
This is a community problem that requires a community response. These are issues that need to be tackled head-on, and the Centre for Social Justice deserves credit for refusing to dodge them. While the detailed policy is some way off, they show us a genuine way forward, one which draws on a long and honourable tradition of social reform and community co-operation to produce practical solutions. Real change is desperately needed; not just to punish crime, but to rebuild connection with families and communities, giving young people hope and pride, and a stake in their society's future.
Lets all pretend we don't have any clue what so ever as to what is leading this matrix of social dysfunction, or have anyone 'out of left field' speak who might have some insight into what needs to be done...meanwhile we continue a policy of "Isolation and Stigmatization" in the Development of an Underclass. John Kirwin, where are you?
High rates of delinquency are said to be encouraged by the effect of poverty on parenting and the supply of delinquent peers (James, 1995; Weatherburn & Lind, 2001). This leads to suggestions that policies that reduce inequality and deprivation will also lead to reductions in drugrelated crime. The evidence for this suggestion is extremely hard to assess. It is very difficult to evaluate the impact of policies in reducing unemployment and income inequality, improving health,
Other countries have made deliberate attempts to reduce crime through social development, including Canada, France, Australia and Finland (The John Howard Society of Alberta, 1995). Despite the lack of conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of this approach, the strong theoretical support and empirical evidence for the link between social deprivation and drug-related crime means that we can assume that effective measures to tackle social exclusion will also have an impact on rates of drug related crime.