Intervention Measures Aimed At Reducing Youth Crime Criminology Essay

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Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, and the Children Act 1989, all local authorities, are required to put into place strategies which prevent and reduce acts of crime locally, as well as to also encourage children to not partake in any crime.

The main purpose of this essay is to evaluate the intervention measures undertaken by local councils at a community level. In this essay, where the term local council is used, it will be understood as synonymous with Haringey Council.

Major theories such classicism, and positivism, in addition to other theories such as the zonal hypothesis, and Merton and Cohen's approaches to deviance and delinquency, respectively, will help to look at the reason why people, and more especially youths commit crime.

In addition to looking at the legislations, and laws, through looking at what underlies crime, and youth offending, this essay intends to understand the policy and practices put in place by Haringey, as well agencies which work in tandem with the council to prevent and deter youth offending.

What in actual fact motivates an individual to break the law has shown to be down to multiple factors. Criminological theories, such as classicism, positivism, whilst not necessarily influential in legislation, or legal Acts, can often be seen in the practices put in place by local authorities.

Classicist theorist, Cesare Beccaria, suggested that crime was a result of the pleasure seeking nature of all humans. He felt that all humans are capable of committing a crime, should the benefit outweigh the loss, or the punishment received as a result. Prompt punishment, he suggested, should be used as a deterrent, and an example to show how pointless law breaking behaviour is, whilst also being in proportion to the act committed. Regardless of age, he felt it was important and necessary, that the individual takes full responsibility.

In contrast, rather than focusing on culpability, the positivist approach, looks at the causality of a persons' offending. It challenges the legal systems ability to deal with crime as a social problem, as it suggests that offending is a result of genetic, environmental and/or psychological factors. Positivists support a more welfare directed approach. A person centred approach which serves to give punishment in accordance to personal circumstances, and seeks to tackle the influential factors which increase, or lend to the likelihood of offending.

Positivism suggests reform is possible, whereas classicism does not.

Determined to greatly reduce youth crime figures nationally by 2020, the Home Office, in 2008, published a plan for what would become a more community centred approach to dealing with youth offending.

The action plan is the most recent revision in terms of counteracting juvenile deviance. In practice it looks very much like a hybrid between classicism and positivism. Emphasis is placed on punishment as a deterrent against offending whilst also maintaining the importance of a welfare based, person centred approach working with individual elements and factors which increase the possibility of offending (determinism).

This template is reproduced within Local Authorities. Through incorporating different localised agencies (and their powers) put in place to prevent youth offending, the plan aims to focus on taking a strong approach in its consequences and punishment against offending, whilst strengthening the amount of prevention and intervention tactics available.

Whilst the overall rates of young people offending has remained somewhat stable, the amount of individuals newly entering the criminal justice system is suggested to be around 100,000 per year.

In order to decrease the likelihood of crime, the theory is to implement a more stringent approach. One which looks to give support to those most affected, such as victims and families of offenders, as well as areas in which the crime rates are deemed the most problematic.

A lot has been instigated in order to divert young people from committing crimes, as well as to encourage individuals to feel that they have a voice, and can have their needs met in other ways.

Although the seemingly steady amount of those who are still entering the criminal system, suggests that the measures in place are helping, the figures are still large, suggesting there is much room for improvement.

The functionalist approach to Deviance argues that some criminal acts can be seen as a useful device to show that a facet of society is no longer working. An example of this can be seen in the 'Youth Green Paper'. In an attempt to reduce the youth offending statistics, the Government has plans to provide a far reaching system which is more engaging, and deemed beneficial to those accessing it.

Another social interpretation of criminal activity comes from Merton. He suggests deviant behaviour is in direct response to the emphasis on the attainment of cultural goals. He outlines five ways in which individuals can respond. The most common and accepted means is through conformity to the normal channels. The degree to which individuals conform, affects their method of attainment, for example. The next branch of response is to attain cultural goals through the means of crime. Finally, the last method of responding is complete rebellion, this accounts for both the attainment of institutionalised goals, as well as means for attainment.

Structural, and Sub-cultural theories also look at crime in terms of social position within the context of society. Cohen suggests that deviance is the result of the frustration experienced by those in lower social position. Deviance is seen as a means of achieving success through implementing measures of success specific to localized social groups. This leads to the formation of a delinquent subculture. Cloward and Ohlin take this further adding the importance of opportunity - the type of subculture cultivated depends on the opportunities available. Criminal subcultures are more likely in an environment where crime is established, and criminals are easily accessed. Conflict subcultures are likely to develop in areas where young people have limited access to opportunities to successfully develop legitimately. This results in aggression, and gang violence, which serves both as a means of expression, and a way of getting prestige. The final sub cultural type; Retreatistism is usually focused around drug crimes. They are defined as being double failures, as they fail both at legal as well as illegal means to success.

The interactionist perspective is interesting approach which can be seen in the example of black youth crime, and the changes within Local Authority and Government. It looks at the relationship between those defined as deviant or offenders, and those who give the label. 'Labelling' here is a fascinating approach, in that it places more emphasis on the meaning and context of words used. Becker suggests, " The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label" (1963, cited in Haralambos, 1995, p.405,). In practice, this means that a behaviour or act is open to definition, and can only be labelled as deviant, or criminal, if others, more importantly agents of social control deem it so.

The risk with this is, in the process of labelling, an identity is created. Once a title has been placed upon an individual, others respond accordingly. This leads to the internalisation of the concept. As a result of how others interact with them, individuals are likely to cultivate a self-fulfilling prophecy; identifying with the connotations of deviance. Whilst this is quite a valuable approach, it has quite a few grey areas, for examples, it doesn't explain why individuals actually commit criminal activity. Also it is reductionist in assuming that a deviant label automatically commits a person to fulfilling the attributes associated to criminal behaviour.

Matza and Sykes oppose sub cultural and structural views as to the reasons behind deviance. They, similar to that of classicism, propose that individuals are entirely responsible for their choices. They argue that rather than make excuses, delinquents rationalise their behaviour based on their own value judgements. Choosing not to take responsibility or choosing to accept that an act was basically wrong is an active decision, only possible from those who are fully capable of rationalised thinking.

Ecological theories suggests that crime is more frequent, and concentrated within inner city areas. The zonal hypothesis proposes that this is due to a lack of moral consensus within a highly populated environment. Wirth states that "the degree to which consensus is undermined, is the measure of a society's state of disorganisation" (1964, p.96, cited in Dugmore, 1996, p.51).

This is supported by Digby Griffith, the Director of Offender Management, who labels London as having "unique and challenging circumstances... The affluence brought about by London being one of the world's financial centres and the pockets of deprivation which can be found within the city can lead to widely different types of offending" (2009-10, p.3)

Also, Haringey is recognised as being 10th in a list of 354 most deprived districts in England, this figure drops to 5th when compared to all districts in London. It also has the third highest population of asylum seeking families in London. The unemployment rates in England and Wales average of 3.4%, Haringey has an average of 5.8%, almost double the national average.

According the MPA Crime Mapping in Oct 2010, Haringey came 16th (an improvement from the previous figure of 13th in 2008/9) on a list of the borough with the highest crimes committed. The crime count was 2052 reported crimes. Less affluent areas within the borough such as Noel Park and Tottenham had the highest amounts of recorded crime.

The figures however are slightly different for youths. Haringey reports that youth crime within the borough, is the 3rd highest in London.

Using statistics generated by the YJB, the most common crimes committed were in relation to violence against another person, theft/burglary and motoring offences (e.g. driving without a licence). Overall, the total amount of offences committed by youths in 2008/2009 resulting in disposal was 1,475.

A majority of the disposals given were either pre-court, or first tier. Statistics show that 196 police reprimands were given, followed by 183 referral orders.

In response to community concern regarding crime and personal safety, the Scrutiny Review was developed. Commissioned by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, it was established in order to monitor offending within the community. Haringey's Crime and Disorder Audit in 2001-2004, revealed that 66% of crimes are committed by 10-16 years olds within the borough.

In compliance with the changing national agenda, the review sought to explore options, which would support the reduction of both first time, and repeat offending. By 2006, all councils were encouraged to have a Children and Young People Plan.

With particular sensitivity to those less advantaged within the community, the purpose of this report was to focus on updating their system, in order to provide a more easily understood and better received service. This was expected to work hand in hand with the Governments intention to improve the quality of, and entry into services available to all young people.

Haringey council set itself the task of looking at agencies which could offer diversionary activities in order to discourage local youths from offending.

Most notably, in relation to community services, this was simplified into 6 streams (as cited in Scrutiny Review - Reducing Youth Offending, p2-3) (Listed below are examples of how these are answered by the council):

The availability of youth services and types of services aimed at reducing re-offending.

The Haringey Youth Offending Service (YOS), has a prevention team, which seeks to work with the causes of offending, as well as re-offending.

Through their Youth Inclusion Programme, Haringey have in place a variety of projects and services. These include, Spoilt 4 Choice, Catch 22,On Track and the Challenge and Support project which all aim to reduce youth offending through providing diversionary activities.

Initiatives such as the Youth Inclusion Programme (YIP) report a success of 96.4% at its highest, in reducing offending behaviour, and just 68.9% at it's lowest.

Other initiatives include; On Track, Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs), Splash, Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP), Positive Futures, Safer School Partnerships, Parenting Programmes.

Routes that the YOS use to focus on intervening (reducing re-offending)

Family therapy

Parent support/training - used to create better relations betweens families, and school, particularly helpful with Somali and Turkish families.

Home visiting - often used for children who display behavioural difficulties.

Pre-school education - a service provided to identify children who may develop communication problems along their educational lives.

Specialist interventions - through On Track, services here are used to help create an opportunity for children with identified behavioural difficulties to make changes.

Residential weekends - through On Track , children and parents are given the opportunity to spend weekends away with the purpose of having time away, and sharing feelings conducively.

Haringey is also supported by external agencies Exposure and The Brandon Centre.

To look at the range of services available to different groups of young people, including ethnicity; age; gender; disability.

Sure start and Connexions are examples of youth services. Sure Start works with less privileged families to provide support and well-being, childcare and early years' education. It works through linking in with families who would usually be unable to get the quality and consistency of support needed to provide for their children due to material deprivation. In partnership with the Youth Green Paper, the 'Youth Matters' publication shares the Governments intention to update the educational system to be more 'user friendly', and engaging to young people. Connexions is a by product of this. Based within the school setting, it offers advice and information for those aged between 13-19 yrs. Providing support for those recognised as most likely truant, or need some form of direction. They also provide help for those with disabilities and/or learning difficulties up until the age of 25.

To look up the level of take up of services available and which groups of these young people take up these services.

Expressing that they are greatly under resourced, Haringey share that two things. Firstly, that there is a larger interest from young people who want to be involved, than they can actually work with. And secondly, not all ethnic groups within the community are represented. Somali, Turkish and Eastern European communities are a growing population within the borough, but they are highly underrepresented. This suggests that a sizeable proportion of young people (leading up to 2006) were not accessing services, due to the lack of resources, and ultimately knowledge. More than likely, more children come into contact with suitable services as a result of offending, than those that could have been prevented beforehand.

To identify barriers and challenges to effective local partnership working.

Finance is a key issue, the Home Office report that £100 million would be invested into cross-governmental working. In practice this money would be allocated to anything which diverts youths into services, especially those recognised as more likely to turn to deviant activity. An Area Grant 2009/2010 of £25,000 was used to maintain the current Youth offending prevention initiative.

A lack of knowledge on all communal groups' makes local partnership difficult also, as it means that the information required to support those must susceptible to deviance, or vulnerable are not easily reached. This is most easily dealt with through succinct, and direct information sharing where possible, to ensure that information is updated, and services are capable of meeting the needs of those targeted.

To examine the effectiveness of diversionary and intervention programmes.

Haringey achieved an 89% reduction in reoffending through early intervention in 2004/2005.

In their 'Safer for All - 2008-2011' strategy, they share that youth crime figures had reduced significantly, at 27.4%. Initiatives which deal with young people individually have been greatly beneficial, the council lists, the Youth Service, the Youth Action Challenge, Off the Street Less Heat, and the Haringey Police and Community Boxing Club as examples of this.

Although, whilst youth crime figures are going down, serious violence offences are going up.

To consider Haringey's performance targets against other comparable authorities.

Haringey social services department is prolific, with extreme neglect and abuse cases being dealt with inappropriately. Safeguarding children is an area which needs significant address in comparison to other boroughs, in 2009; Ofsted reported that in some areas progress was being made.

Whilst there is a notable decrease in youth offending overall, Haringey's youth offending figures are particularly high for violent crimes in comparison to other London authorities.

Also, different measures put in place by different authorities make comparing data and performance difficult.

Website such as which are used to provide audits on council performance, no longer provide area assessments, which also makes it harder to establish comparable data.

Whilst the laws in place deal with the punishment, and consequences relevant to the offence committed, intervention aims to be packaged so that it is entirely relevant to each individual at risk of re-offending. Factors such as personal, family, social, education, wellbeing are recognised as being key to reducing criminal activity. Pertinent to this is early intervention, and identification of risk factors. Supporting young people to deal with personal problems decreases the likelihood of delinquent behaviour, as well as repeat offending.

Statistics from the 2001-2004 Crime and Disorder audit, show that whilst youth crime is high in the borough, 66% the recidivism rate is less than half at 31.3% when this multifaceted, early intervention approach is applied.

However, this is only when services are accessible to those that need them.

Whilst in practice numerous youth services can be named, these don't address everyone. Somali, Eastern European, and Turkish communities are amongst the highest underrepresented. In a report, by the borough, the Youth Inclusion manager suggests the implementation of services which are of interest to these communities.

However, they recognise that there are areas which still need to be improved upon.

Through advertising, recruiting and creating voluntary groups involving members of those communal groups, it is hoped that this will allow for information to be received on how to create beneficial services. Currently the services existing work well for those who are over represented, such as black and white children. Haringey have publicly acknowledged that young black people (especially males), and young Roma are highly over-represented within the Criminal Justice system. During 2008-2009, Black and Black British received the highest amount of recorded offences resulting in disposal at 703. They are also recognised as the most likely ethnic group to receive custodial sentences.

Haringey has made large adaptations to the way in which they reach out to young people.

In response to the social need, they have provided initiatives which work to both deter and divert youths from offending, as well as to reduce serious youth violence. For example, 'Value Life' a student led anti-violence campaign, and Youth at Risk.

Including young people in providing a service for other young people, and giving qualifications, empowers young people to feel confident in supporting the community and their peers.

Investing money into researching communal groups, as well as improving the services currently available means that they are continuously meeting the needs of the borough.

This is supported through funds such as the Area Based grant, and the Haringey Reducing Re-offending Programme (HARRP), which includes services such as a mentor programme.

It also means that it is easier to monitor, and reduce the likely of offending behaviour.

Haringey, recognise that there is still much to do to maintain this, and have most recently proposed the beginning of a partnership with Enfield, to address gang related violence across the boroughs.

Also, as a further improvement to their multi-faceted approach, Haringey are looking into a multi-systemic approach, currently used by Cambridge County, and the USA with success. In practice, this means integrating families and the community more heavily into the treatment of serious offenders.

This is aimed at those with severe anti-social behaviour issues. This would replace treatment that is currently given to the person individually, and involve social and environmental aspects to their care plan. This approach synchronises with the ecological theory of crime. The $14m trial which was due to finish in March 2010, has received little publication. And much less is known as to whether or not this will become a permanent service, or opt-in, within the Youth Offending Service.

In the most recent joint inspection of Haringey (2006), the Chief Inspector of Probation, labelled Haringey YOS as well developed. Minus a few areas needing improving, Haringey was deemed very capable of providing a valuable service to young people.

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Dugmore, P; Pickford, J and Angus, S (2006). Youth Justice and Social Work. Exeter: Learning Matters Ltd. p51.

Haralambos, M. and Holborn, M. (1995). Sociology; Themes and Perspectives. 4th ed. London: Collins Educational. p405