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Lecture 11

CRIM 1650 Lecture 11: Youth and Crime (Part 2)

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CRIM 1650
James Williams

Youth and Crime – Part 2 (Week 11 – Nov. 22) Kit: Roberts (2003) Online: Tim Hartnagel (2004) Last Week Cont. Youth Crime as a Moral Panic 1.Public reactions to youth crime resemble a moral panic  Developed in 1973 – Sam Cohen? o The clash between two groups o To explain this, ‘moral panic’ was developed o key idea: define behaviour as social problems on the ground they defy moral standards 2.Moral panics are repetitive cycles of public concern in which a group of people or a type of behaviour is defined as problematic and deserving of immediate social intervention  Believed to be a threat to common values/norms/standards  Often involves some kind of punitive response o Crime control for a security measure  Corruption of social and cultural values and beliefs o Motivated by a sense of moral concern and outrage  These panics are typically directed towards marginalized groups (women, racial groups, etc.) o More recently, youth has been targeted 3.Features:  Cyclical in nature and consistent with generational fears regarding the status of youth in society and related forms of cultural expression o Features of moral panic related to youth o “Young generation doesn’t have a strong moral foundation” o “constantly challenging the status quo” o cycles from one generation and is projected onto the next  ex. Forms of cultural expression – 1950’ crime comics o Fredrick Wertham – psychiatrist, “seduction of the innocent”  Interviewed juvenile delinquents  Avid crime comic readers  Crime comics were a key component of crime within this group of young kids  His writing gave scientific evidence, scared parents  Effected families in the US and Canada (parents and educators)  Moral grounded myths about the “good old days” o Generational fears  Directed towards younger generations  Promoted by moral entrepreneurs o similar to claims makers o defining behaviours/groups of people as social problems on the grounds that they violate moral standards o rooted in a moral sentiment o what is being created is a social problem  creative/innovative producers (from their perspective) of social problems o neglect the reality of what the world was like back then – it was not as ideal  ex. Late 1890’s – evidence of kids committing more serious crimes  two 8 y/o boys murdering another 2 y/o  fueled by the media o any moral panic is influenced by the media o by sensationalizing individual incidents of youth crime and presenting them as more typical than they actually are  public fears  what is sensational is atypical & captures viewers o 95% of youth crime stories reported in the media were about violent offences  less than 25% of Ontario’s youth court cases actually involves violent crime  a disconnect between these stats o the media often focuses on atypical cases and atypical cases that appear to be presented in fairly extreme cases  ex. Attempted murder + a lenient sentence = rage from viewers  justifications for sentence imposed  exclusive focus is on the seriousness of the offence rather than the victim o the media for some people is the only source of information on crime and social justice  fanned by politicians – “moral entrepreneurs” o distinct interest in developing moral panic = easy targets for politicians  scapegoats o public policy making can be on these atypical forms of violence rather than more complex issues  ex. Youth crime is portrayed through violent terms – it is normal to produce more preventative strategies o allows politicians to interact with people regarding justice *  simplicity of youth messages* o key idea: define behaviour as social problems on the ground they defy moral standards Moral panics are incongruous with the empirical reality of youth crime  case study: school shootings o rare; there is a much greater risk of a child being struck by lightning on the way to school o comes from parents or guardians Reality of Youth Crime  since early 1900’s, decline in youth crime o significant decline (youth violent, property) o 1980’s there was an increase o 1992-02 33% drop in youth crime – and the rate has remained stable since the late 90’s o driven mostly by property crime over violent crime  youth crimes represent a small % of crime overall o only responsible for 12% of crime  vast majority of youth crime is non-violent o 75% of youth crime is non-violent  of the 75% - 44% if property offences (theft under $5000)  32% drug possession  can include false pretences, fraud  popular property offences by youth: shoplifting  level 1 assaults: the largest category of violent youth crime o 70% of violent crime consists of level 1 assault o murder = 1% of violent crime (rare)  16-17 year olds are responsible for the majority of offences o 55% are responsible for youth crime o 12-13 = 10% o 12 & under = 2%  recent increases in violent youth crime (1987-97) were: o confined to common assaults  common assault charges increased o indicative of the greater willingness of the public to report crimes and the police to lay charges  0 tolerance policies being introduced in schools  definition of youth crime = expanding (ex.
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