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High rates of criminal activities unfortunately are an essential feature of modern urban life in most countries. The conditions of living, psychological and social issues evolving in cities often favour deviating, criminal behaviour. Situations, with this kind of behaviour becomes even a socially accepted norm within a given community, are met, unfortunately, quite often. The police are and always will be the first line of defence when tackling crime Whilst there are many forms of policing available to them including foot and mobile patrols along with community policing with high presence/visibility, it has been argued that only a multi disciplinary partnership can succeed against crime with residents being the foundation of any fight that tackles the problems of society (Homeoffice, 2010). Therefore In order to understand the question we have to examine some of the evidence that is documented with regard to community crime initiatives that have worked in a multi partnership. These partnerships have involved the police, residents and the voluntary and private sector and it is not just simply about applying the "Broken Window" theory to estates (Criminal Justice, 2005). There have been the successes with regard to projects that have worked in partnership one being the Kirkholt project (Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention, 2010). In applying the same principles from Kirkholt one can see some success and arguably set the standard for any project that was about to follow in it' wake with regard to working in partnership with residents more so on a local level in Brandon Co Durham. Whilst it will be shown these projects achieved their aim, there is however those who will not take advantage of these projects and carry on with a criminal agenda. In 1991 the Government introduced referral orders a major move on the Governments behalf in addressing the alleged problem of youth crime. This culminated in the Youth offender Panel Implemented by the Government on a national level in April 2002 and based upon the principal of restorative justice where by which the offender is encouraged to look at the effect of their crime on their family, victim and the community again involves residents from the community, and again provides another level where there is participation. .
Whilst this paper will examine the panels more closely within the main body we therefore have to look at the effectiveness of these panels. Primarily as directed within the question what are the advantages and disadvantages of these panels for members of the community who serve on them and the communities they serve. Alison Morris an exponent of the restorative justice model points to the success of initiatives such as Glasgow. However she is also forced to concede as we will see accepts there some problems with the restorative model and evidence resented will show there has been mixed success with these panels. Therefore can this form of restorative justice really work for communities and thus divides communities into disorganised and even disadvantaged as Hope and Shaw suggest, or is it effectively another white elephant that allows the Government to massage figures and fail the very communities they were set up to help and is arguably forming a tokenism approach by the Government to keeping the masses happy, and in turn the people who serve on these panels. Whilst the intentions of the Serving Government may be honourable can as Carrabine suggests these people truly understand the complex nature of society and the problems that people are faced with in these Post modern communities, and in turn failing the communities they are wanting to serve and protect from crime? Whilst there is enough money being allocated to this measure there too has also been critics of these panels as we will see in the HMIC thematic report of 2002.In turn this forces to focus more heavily on the question set and arrive at a conclusion. What are the benefits to these people in working partnership with agencies? Of course there is the belief that through consultation and delegation of tasks residents will again form a sense of community and hopefully reduce the crime in their areas or are the problems to inherent in these communities for any agency to tackle. The efficiency and effectiveness of the police force is always under constant scrutiny. The police service is required to carry out its role of protecting and serving the community, with minimum resources in the most productive and cost effective method possible. One way in which the police are able to deal with the ever increase in crime, is through the partnerships they have developed with other public and private bodies. These organisations aid the police in many different forms from providing support and advice, to physically helping to police society (Lea.2002).
Within these communities the police patrol and help, there will always be an element of youth crime. Many residents especially elder residents argue that they are harassed and even frightened by groups/gangs of young people ( Jewkes & Letherby, 2002).In order to allay these fears the police have to work in close partnerships with many statutory agencies and agencies from the private and voluntary success. An alternative approach to law enforcement community policing. Joseph McNamara, argues that even the most valiant police work often fails to reduce crime. On the other hand, when neighbourhood citizens become organised and worked with the police it was possible to drive out the criminal element and reduce burglaries and solve other problems resistant to traditional police methods. Strict enforcement was frequently part of the solution, but it was enforcement demanded by neighbourhood people as opposed to the random arbitrary and repressive enforcement of 'Fixing Broken Windows'(Kelling & Coles,1996).However the major flaw in the 'Fixing Broken Windows' philosophy is that it creates an 'under class' made up of minor offenders for the police to harass and attack based on the theory that doing so prevents crime." (McNamara 1997).Whilst it would be easy to dismiss the 'broken window' theory it still does provide a basis where to start from when wanting to address crime within the community. It does identify a problem and very frequently residents within these communities argue that the police and council do nothing and have allowed the estate to fall into disrepair and neglect. This in turn allows the criminal and anti social elements to flourish. However an early example of community partnership and often the model applied to most schemes when tackling crimes within the community is the Kirkholt project in the early 80s .Underpinned by consultations with the community and adopting a multi disciplinary approach with constant monitoring. It reported an 80% decline in domestic burglaries over the first seven months and a 75% reduction in the burglary rate over a three year period. This was compared to a reduction of only 24% in the remainder of the division. More recently policing has been shown to be effective through partnership was in the village in Brandon, County Durham. The initiative involved a partnership between the police, fire service, district and county councils and other organisations including the County Durham Youth Engagement Service as well as members of the community. Extra police officers as well as youth workers identified and talked to young people. Through this pro-active involvement the police and the youth services attached to this programme were able to identify what they wanted and involve them in decision-making at a local level. Police said there has been a drop of 70% in the number of "nuisance" incidents reported by local people (BBC.2004).Whilst it would appear from the research about this community project and applaud their success we have discuss the remainder, the 30% that got away. Assumptions have to be made that within this 30% there was some crime committed and the perpetrators were brought to justice. The justice system therefore becomes re-active as opposed to a pro-active stance as taken by the agencies as residents from Brandon.
In 1991 the introduction of referral orders and Youth Panels took place. As part of the Government's strategy to prevent offending by young people.
The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1991 saw a major shift in the national agenda with by the labour Government regards to restorative justice and Youth Crime (Carrington & Hogg 2002).In April 2002, youth courts found themselves having to will refer all young offenders (aged 10-17) who pleaded guilty for their first time were referred to a youth offender panel (court determines the length of the order between three and twelve months) according to the seriousness of the offence. Comprising of at least two volunteers of the public who represented the local community, and a member of the youth offending team. These members from the community were to lead the panel and chair the meeting (YOT team sat in an advisory role). Within this hearing the victim may well have to confront his victim and make reparation along with background information all sides of the story can be heard. After the decision has been arrived at the said course of action agreed. The panel will monitor the offender's progress. If at the end of the referral order period the contract has been successfully completed, the conviction will be spent. If however the offender is unwilling to fails to complete the agreed course they will be referred back to court which may revoke the order and impose an alternative sentence (HMSO,2002).
Alison Morris an advocate of restorative justice acknowledges that restorative justice advocates that through this process victim and offenders come together all be it a body where offenders, victims and community leaders can discuss these problems and make a direct intervention. In Glasgow a scheme which forces young offenders to face up to their crimes has reported a 99% success rate. Of the 500 youths who entered the Restorative Justice programme in Glasgow only 5 committed further crimes. Part of the scheme involves a meeting between the offender and the victim to encourage youngsters to face the consequences of their actions. Young people joined the scheme after being referred to the children's panel. Having been found guilty of offences such as burglary, assault, possessing offensive weapons and arson. The scheme compromises of a three tier approach. The first level of the scheme involves the young person receiving a restorative caution. This looks at the reasons for offending and aims to steer the youth away from crime. The second stage involves a meeting between the offender, his or her family and the victim of their crime. The third and level is for those who have carried out four or five offences, by which they must attend a dozen two-hour sessions on a course designed to stop repeat offending. Deputy leader Councillor Jim Coleman said: "Glasgow accounts for about 30% of all offences referred to the reporter to the children's panel in Scotland. The programme is designed to ensure that young people involved in petty crime face up to their behaviour." From relatively minor offences to more serious crimes, restorative justice offers the chance to make amends"(Scotsman.2003) Restorative justice is a way of thinking about conflict and a way of acting on that thinking. Primarily it challenges people as a community to examine how they respond and go onto resolve these issues (Morris,2002).
Although Morris also acknowledges the argument that it is plagued with imprecision and confusion... "There are fundamental misunderstandings of what restorative justice seeks to achieve"(Morris.2002:2).This defence may account to her referral to Kurki who makes the accusation that restorative justice has yet to yield any evidence of an impact on crime (Morris,2002).More worryingly and a criticism of the youth panel are these people from mainly marginalized and alienated communities equipped to deal with complex issues such as racially motivated violent crime , drugs, and even sexual offences. Society constantly has a wish that justice is swift ( Locke,1990).This belief can be found anchored in the theory that society has to blame someone (Jewkes & Letherby,2002).Therefore these criminal have come apart from modern society and should be treated as such (Carson & Wiles,1975).In turn what develops is two types of communities, Disorganised and Disadvantaged' A 'disorganised community' can be dominated by low and poor quality housing. There is an absence of any law abiding and effective ways of raising children and teaching them right from wrong. This also supports the theory that this failure of community life leads to crime .There appears to be the constant arrivals of new tenants to the area mainly from ethnic minorities. These groups fail to maintain any community bonds thus leading to the dislocation of urban life (Hope & Shaw,1998).The 'disadvantaged community' Crime develops because of lack of opportunities for personal advancement. Advancement cannot be achieved because of poor education, income, jobs and housing. Anyone suffering from these disadvantages find it hard to engage in the employment market and therefore any interaction with society can only be done through negativity therefore becoming alienated from society (Hope & Shaw,1998).
There fore it has to believed that given the complicated structure of a Post Modern society volunteers from the community may not understand the complex nature of the crime and the offenders history or even reasoning for committing the crime and more importantly comprehend the definition and the scope and extent of the restorative justice model (Carrabine,2004).Garland and Sparks support this argument when two years earlier they argued that these panels will ultimately fail. If these panels decide upon a rehabilitation course for a drug offender they have to be aware of funding around this treatment. As these community leaders do not have access of even comprehend the restrictions of funding placed upon them by central Government the person had effectively been set up to fail and they will simply re-visit the court sooner rather than later (Garland & Sparks.2000). They have been placed in a position where an alternative means to the traditional criminal justice system has been sought thus avoiding the traditional system. Another issue and the primary directive of this question is how will this form of justice benefit communities and keep involvement and effectively maintain a grassroots, community approach. Earlier in this paper we discussion was given with regard to the Kirkholt theory and the project.Whilst the project was effective in its delivery and outcome in other areas it had somewhat mixed results Huddersfield only saw a drop of 30% and a drop of 20% in thefts from cars.Nottingham saw a dramatic reduction in repeat victimisation,81 days to six months. Although there was success, it was small with only achieving an overall reduction of burglaries, bringing it down from 23% to 14%(npc.gov)
nnpc.gov)d the The HMIC report, "Changing time on crime" is critical of restorative justice although pledging to develop the service and continue with the restorative justice programme one cannot help of the Â£16 Million spent on post conviction facilities only 1% went towards the victims of crime ! Although there is an acknowledgement within the report about the good work of elected members from the council it is critical none the less about their lack of involvement. With a one councillor arguing "they have yet still to come terms with the enormous potential of the crime and disorder act" (HMIC,2002.58 ch4.49).However it has to be argued that there is a fundamental flaw with this system. There many benefits for these communities, stakeholders within these communities that sit on the panels do have a chance to rebuild their communities, all be it reactive there is element of long term crime prevention for these stakeholders.
The major concern with this paper has been to discuss the advantages and disadvantageous of involving communities in local crime initiatives. Community policing in partnership is appealing and does have it's uses but it is no more than a stop gap for appeasement Therefore in any strategy, the police and designated agencies have a vital role to help the people in communities to establish their own structures and methods of preventing crime, and work with the agencies involved. Benefits to residents who work in partnership in trying to reduce crime can only profit. With a reduction in crime and anti social behavior residents and communities will become regenerated and form a cohesive society. Residents who fail to work in partnership with agencies who are trying to reduce crime can only be guilty of neglect and are effectively condoning the criminogenic behavior of certain sections of society.
Crimes are committed for many reasons persistent crime in affluent or deprived communities. Crimes have existed throughout the ages. However as already argued within the context of this paper we live a Post-modern society, this society seeks to deliver justice in a more restorative manner. The 20th century has many and various types of crimes. Some of them are old and well known to the Police and the others are modern and its first appearance is in this age. However, there crimes exist in this age; it's not as much as in the past due to the presence of the modern police systems that are able to decrease the average crimes happening in successive years. Justice is a small word, but it has a great meaning as it play an important rule in crime, punishment and communities. A judge has to take the balance as a standard before deciding the punishment of each criminal to be perfectly matched with his crime. Justice also makes criminals be afraid of the punishment. Justice is the only way to balance things as a set of crime and punishment. Small crimes have small punishments as justice works to do so.
Young People who commit minor should therefore be given a minor sentence. Not a sentence that is out of proportion to the crime. Generally, crimes are considered the biggest problems in our daily life; our societies have become more diverse and complicated as a society we are now multi cultural and multi. There are basic principles that underlie and inform restorative justice approaches. These elements include a focus on holding the offending party accountable, providing means to repair the harm done, providing opportunities for the reintegration of the individual into the community, involving the victim and working towards the victim's healing. Restorative justice is a way of settling disputes. The victims, their families and friends, and the broader community are viewed as the recipients of the harm caused by the offender's behaviour. Restorative approaches attempt to repair the harm done by direct contact between victim and offender rather than a resolution conducted by the state. However it is the argument of this paper that people who sit on Youth panels have neither the comprehension are effectively equipped or trained to understand some of the complex problems they will encounter. Admittedly these panels do give a sense of ownership by the stakeholders and can become a point of contact with local residents and can act as a conduit between residents. Whilst the YOT team sit on the panel within an advisory role that is making the final decision with regards to the punishment? Is it the YOT team? Would this in turn not make the volunteers redundant even to the point of a puppetry panel? Or is it the Volunteers who having a vested interested within the community they serve can hand down a sentence that would not best serve the offender but would satisfactorily meet the needs of the community. . Multi-agency partnerships involving local government, the police and residents associations on any level are paramount. However it is clear that without a flexible and adaptable approach a reduction in crime will not happen. Any concept of a community, acceptance of it's inherently diverse natures that exist , it is difficult to see how there could be any benefits to residents. Consequently the undertaking of required tasks to see the reduction in crime and fulfilment of any regeneration of communities will be lost.