These youths come home to neighbourhoods with no after school activities or safe places to play so either go out onto the streets as part of gangs or are kept at home in crowded, tiny flats. Again the problem is values; although this time we need to improve the cohesion and personal interactions of this particular group. This can be done by providing group activities which would provide these youths with positive ways of interacting and building self esteem. Divert (www. divert. org) is a charity which funds and sets up local community projects.
In the past they have implemented community football, music and dance on an estate in Cardiff, motor education in West London, and a young people’s bicycle rebuilding scheme on a deprived estate on the Isle of Wight. This kind of scheme needs to be expanded, through a whole range of ideas, skate parks, basketball courts, youth clubs, and generally improving the environment in inner cities. Robert Merton (1938) explained youth crime by looking at anomie, an idea introduced by Emile Durkheim (1893). Merton identified a tension between America’s cultural system and its social structure.
The culture was portrayed as an open society, with universal possibilities of upward social mobility, whereas the social structure limited this supposedly universal possibility to particular social groups. There was a gap between the cultural goals; set up as the “American dream”, that equal opportunities were more important that status and rank; and the structural means. This lead young people from poorer backgrounds to realise that however much they tried, through legitimate means it was impossible to achieve the wealth and success expected of them.
Merton identified several ways in which people react to the gap between means and ends. The ones relevant to juvenile delinquency are both types of crime. Innovative crime involves finding illegitimate means to achieve wealth and status; usually theft or property crime. A retreatist reaction to anomie refers to people who opt out of the conflict between ends and means resorting to drug misuse or reclusive ‘hobo’ lifestyles. This theory implies that crime is most likely in the poorest sections of society.
In contrast, it can be argued that juvenile delinquency is not about the pursuit of wealth (Cohen 1955). Cohen believed it was due to being working class boys growing up in a class based society. To these boys, delinquent subculture was a means of getting even, and an alternative mean of achieving status. Strain is caused by middle class standards being applied to the working class, resulting in status-frustration. These theories suggest that what is needed is providing an alternative to crime for achieving status.
This can be tackled through leisure activities, job training or work placement schemes to set these youths of on a good footing. Schemes which provide achievable goals could be implemented, such as mechanics training, or horse riding. Sports projects provide alternate ways for young people to achieve the status they are looking for, by striving to win a race, or a place on the football team. Early intervention is also key to providing them with a good start so they don’t feel a need to find alternate means.
A child’s social development is key in crime prevention (Brown and Putt, 1999). Advising parents on childcare through home visits, pre-school education, social and cognitive training in the classroom, peer influence strategies, training for teachers in classroom management, and anti-bullying programs are all successful ways improving social development and hence preventing crime (Farrington, 1996). It is clear that crime prevention can be approached in many ways.
Improving parent/child relationships and mentoring address the problems of poor attachment and lack of appropriate role models. Social disorganisation can be tackled by improving community relations and providing activities to keep children off the streets. Finally, problems with goals and status can be prevented by providing other ways for young people to achieve their aims, or providing alternative goals. Addressing these issues which cause crime would hopefully provide a way of preventing it.