The subject of youth crime has been one of much public debate over the last few years. Statistics demonstrate that many youths who resort to crime face serious social and economical marginalisation. Justice Action believes that major changes have to be made to the current youth justice system in order to combat these ongoing concerns.
Continued funding should not be given to juvenile detention centres; rather, the underlying systemic inequalities that youth offenders face needs to be addressed. Tax dollars should instead be redirected towards furthering youth education; rehabilitation programs for young offenders; housing initiatives; and creating community centres and after-school initiatives, amongst various other things. This is the only way to combat youth crime before it starts.
What Causes Youth Crime?
As confirmed by The Australian Institute of Criminology's Trends and Issues, child abuse and neglect are often the precursors to youth involvement in crime. Australian Institute of Criminology Director, Dr Adam Graycar, maintains: "a growing body of research evidence drawn from studies of individual families suggests that economic and social stress exert their effects on crime by disrupting the parenting process."
Dr Don Weatherburn, Director, and Ms Bronwyn Lind, Deputy Director, at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research examined the relationship between economic stress, child neglect/abuse and juvenile participation in crime by analysing 261 postcode areas in the urban areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. Their paper, Poverty, Parenting, Peers and Crime-Prone Neighbourhoods, discusses the effects of poverty, child-rearing and delinquency as well as the role of neighbourhoods in youth crime. Their analysis concludes that:
- "Postcode areas with high levels of poverty tended to have significantly higher levels of parenting deficients such as child neglect;"
- "There is a strong relationship between the level of child neglect/abuse in a postcode area and the level of juvenile participation in crime in that area;"
- "Economic and social stress exert most of their effects on crime, at least in urban areas, by increasing the risk of child neglect;"
- "Juveniles rendered susceptible to involvement in crime by poor parenting are more likely to become involved in crime if they reside in 'offender-prone' neighbourhoods than if they do not reside in such neighbourhoods."
Other factors may include:
- Poor attainment at school, truancy and school exclusion
- Drug or alcohol misuse and mental illness
- Deprivation such as poor housing or homelessness
- Peer group pressure