Editorial

Juvenile crime

It is said that there is a substantial cause and effect relationship between exposure and perpetration of violence. We know that violence can be transmitted from person to person by means of exposure to violence in the community. For instance, exposure to gun violence, as is rampant today in our society, can make a person twice as likely to perpetrate serious violence in future. Remember the saying ‘violence begets violence’. However exposed or unexposed, it is true that people will differ on a wide range of demographic, socio-economic, temperamental and other factors. These differences, rather than gun violence exposure itself, could account for the elevated rates of violence in the society. This violent trait is not confined to only adult members of the society. Today more and more we hear reports of minor boys committing crime, some even serious crimes. So when police arrest 16- and 17-year olds who shrug off crime, including murder, as a rite of passage, the rational public natural response are shock, fear and anger. But a question that arises here is – what drives juveniles to commit crimes? Sure, they may understand from all the attention they receive afterwards, that what they did was naughty, but do they understand the gravity or seriousness of their actions? Murder is not the only type of juvenile crime. Juvenile crime can be any specific act prohibited by law for which society has provided a formally sanctioned punishment. The offenses typically include delinquent acts, which will be considered crimes if committed by adults. A common believe for reasons behind delinquency is that children are affected by problems such as poverty, family breakdowns, neglect, alcoholism and poor education, and many regard delinquency as a normal adaptive way for the child to cope. It is said that a delinquent behavior represents a neglected child’s attempt to compensate for attention that he did not receive in other ways. Sure, the potential for violence exists in all, including children, but it is how they choose to deal with it makes the difference. Children who are in a gang or even who have a strong desire to be in a gang are at risk of delinquency. If they start withdrawing from friends and usual activities, they are at risk. Even youngsters who suddenly start getting bad grades could be prone to violence. There is no formula for pinpointing exactly who will become violent and it is not sufficient to blame poverty, drugs, uncaring parents, short-sighted social programmes, misguided justice programmes or any of the reasons so often stated for juvenile crimes. The simple truth is that there is no pat answer that works for everybody. Each juvenile and their situation are unique. Also environment can affect behavior, but it can be less crucial than the choice the individual makes as they respond to that environment. Children make choices, and although they do not choose the environment in which they are raised, they can choose how to deal with it. There are children who make a series of choices not to live within legal, moral, or social bounds; they have contempt for rules and ignore others’ expectations. Yet, environment is not completely irrelevant either. There are external factors that can either inhibit or facilitate a person’s inclination to break the law. If drugs were not available, a child would not become a drug addict. If parents ignore irresponsible behavior by their child, it is likely to persist. If guns were not easily accessible, a child would not use it to commit crimes. The truth of the matter is as long as there are juveniles; there is likely be juvenile crime. This is the reason why separate detention facilities, rules, procedures and laws have been created for juveniles with the intent to protect their welfare and rehabilitate them, while at the same time protecting public safety. The modern-day reality, particularly in our part of the world however is that many are arrested, held and released time after time in a revolving-door process that ends only when a heinous crime is committed.

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