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Teenagers and street crime

Consumer culture is driving street crime amongst teenagers, says new report for the Youth Justice Board

A fast-changing consumer culture where having the latest mobile phone has become a must-have status symbol for today's teenagers is one of the major factors associated with street crime, says a new report published today.

Young People and Street Crime, conducted for the Youth Justice Board by leading academics Drs Marian Fitzgerald and Janet Stockdale, LSE, and Professor Chris Hale, University of Kent, found that the importance young people place on image, together with economic and personal factors were the main triggers that cause young people to commit street crime.

The researchers interviewed young people convicted of street crime as well as victims, parents, police, teachers and Youth offending team (Yot) workers as part of their study to find out what motivates young people to commit street crime and what can be done to tackle the problem.

The research, carried out between April 2001 and June 2002, found those most at risk of offending were young people with no adult earners in the household, teenage boys with no positive male role models in their lives and those alienated from mainstream education. It was most likely to occur in areas where children of the 'have nots' in society come into close contact with the 'haves' and in neighbourhoods where social ties tend to be weakest.

Lord Warner of Brockley, chairman of the Youth Justice Board, said: 'This research shows that ownership of mobiles phones is just one part of a wider consumer culture among young people that has not only made robbery a more lucrative crime to commit but has motivated offenders in the first place.

'For many of today's teenagers, possessions like mobile phones are a must-have status symbol and some young people have turned to crime to get them. Those who offend are frequently those who have become disengaged with education, have had inadequate adult role models and have become alienated from mainstream their fellow citizens, including their contemporaries.'

The report concludes that the street crime initiative has done much to encourage joint working, but that it cannot be tackled in isolation from other forms of youth offending or the wider question of what is happening in young people's lives. Early intervention must be at the core of any strategy, but young people must be allowed to develop confidence and self-respect.

The Youth Justice Board, responsible for leading reforms to the youth justice system, has already set in place targeted prevention work with those most at risk of offending, including Splash and Youth Inclusion Programmes which have seen a dramatic drop in youth crime.

Professor Marian FitzGerald, one of the authors of the report, said: 'The rise in street crime is just one symptom of much wider problems which are deep-rooted. The criminal justice system has a part to play in tackling them; but addressing their causes will require a sustained strategy which involves all the relevant agencies.

'A key element in this must be to harness young people's potential in positive ways and to protect them more effectively from the many pressures on them, including the early experience of victimisation which often leads to offending.'

Ends

For more information, contact the Youth Justice Board Press Office on 020 7271 3076/ 3014.

Notes to Editors:

Click here to download a PDF of the report (Link - no longer available)

Young People and Street Crime was conducted on behalf of the Youth Justice Board by Dr Marian FitzGerald and Jan Stockdale of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Chris Hale of the University of Kent

The research is published in conjunction with Home Office research, the Nature of Personal Robbery, which is based on crime reports and witness statements across seven police force areas.

The Youth Justice Board was established under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to oversee the reforms to the youth justice system.

Youth Offending Teams are a multi-agency one-stop shop for young offenders. There are 154 teams covering all areas of England and Wales and are made up of representatives from health, social services, police, probation, education, drugs and housing.

9 January 2003

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