Juvenile crime rates have nearly doubled in many countries. In the news we keep hearing about youngsters got mixed up in shady affairs and committing petty crimes. What actually is a juvenile crime? It is a term denoting various offences committed by children or youths under the age of 18. Such acts are sometimes referred to as juvenile delinquency. Children’s offences typically include delinquent acts, which would be considered crimes if committed by adults, and status offences, which are less serious misbehaviour problems such as truancy and parental disobedience. Both are within the jurisdiction of the youth court; more serious offences committed by minors may be tried in criminal court and be subject to prison sentences.
We hear a child stealing an apple from the market stands, and then rob a small shop, next day we learn about a 17-year-old kid who killed his classmates. People are concerned and rightly so. That’s all what we do or maybe give them a harsh punishment. It seems that the problem has only focused on punishment and very little on prevention or intervention. There is no single cause of violence but we can certainly list a lot of risk factors, which increase the development of criminal behaviour. These include child abuse and family disintegration, violating behaviour, academic failure, school dropout, and lack of contact with the society, fighting with peers and antisocial behaviour early in life.
In order to reveal the real background of juvenile crime it’s obviously not enough to stop at this point. Probably none of the young delinquents were born with hostility, rage and hatred. Their environment and our society have turned them into who they are today. Juveniles have to face the cruel sides of the world too early and they are not well prepared for it yet. Some of them are able to deal with it, some of them are not. The latter shocked by the realisation will escape to the world of crimes so trying to hide themselves from all the dissatisfaction.
Crime rates are the highest in the more urbanised societies where traditional life styles don’t prevail and local communities and social control have become loose. Young people are allowed to live a totally free and undisciplined life in the dark streets of neglected city districts. Getting a false image from these places they are assured that the proper way of living is the one they experience there. Just following the bad example, without being aware of what they are really doing.
The situation is the same with the violation, outrage, aggression fuelled by the media and computer games. Thousands of children sit down in front of the television in the late evening to switch off a little bit. What do they get? Blood, fight, hatred, war and a superman who never dies. After that, what should we expect from our children? To kiss the little doll with love or play with the toy cars… that type of childhood is out of fashion by now. They will rather continue the bloody scenes in their video games using the newest weapons to murder the “bad guys”. The game is never-ending because they have more lives. Most of the parents consider it as just like a game. But it’s much more than that. Subconsciously everything remains in their brains and reflex. On the other hand sitting all day long at the computer kids get isolated from their peers, friends and social life, too. They don’t communicate and thus fall out of the flow of real life. Losing their connections to the world they won’t be able to make realistic judgements leading them into crimes.
Young people should not be expected to have the same values and judgement as adults, therefore not the same treatment either. This is especially true if they have been the victims of poverty, neglect, and abuse. The good approach of the problem can help a lot. Young lives can be salvaged but not with incarceration. It has never been a good solution. Nevertheless developing more programs’ to prevent these children entering the juvenile justice system would be far more effective and less costly.
Let us not forget that they are not just those children. These are our children and they need our attention and concern before they get into serious trouble, as well as after. We should teach our kids and show them how to live life fully and properly. If we can’t make it how do we expect that from them? The youths are the building blocks of the future. We are responsible for making an effort to maximise the chances of the juveniles to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of our society.