Police crime

"Large groups of young single people, simply assemble in places that happen to catch their fancy. Their mere presence is a nuisance to people who want to use the streets and shopping centres in a more conventional way…" (Local Consultative committee, Wolverhampton in Graham et al 1996:20). 

Considering the above quote, is it acceptable to police 'nuisance', or should we only ever police crime? "Youthful incivility is closely associated with fear of crime" (Policing citizens page 46). However it is not only crime which strikes fear into people. As reported by the 'Atlantic online' website, we tend to overlook another kind of fear, the fear of being bothered by disorderly people. Not violent people, nor, necessarily, criminals, but disreputable or obstreperous or unpredictable people: and in particular, rowdy teenagers (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/crime/windows.htm).

Maintenance of civility does not simply involve policing by law enforcement, but also enforcing a social discipline; a social discipline in which the creation of a harmonious neighbourhood and community, will allow people to reside in such places without fear as well as going about their everyday lives.

Throughout decades, many communities have had to deal with anti-social behaviour from young people, who for whatever reason see it fit for themselves to cause distress to others by their actions. The term nuisance can vary in its application, this according to people's perceptions, but when discussing youth nuisance, those actions may consist of the following; sat drinking illegal substances in the park with friends, gathering on street corners, in which some cases may involve the youngsters generally causing a nuisance, with added abusive and threatening behaviour, or, as shopping centres become favourable social gathering places for the young, they can be found running amok within such places, creating general fear and intimidation to those who would otherwise be free of such undue stress.

It is more often than not the adults who complain of the youth problem, it is found that 'Frequently, police intervene to impose adult conceptions of proper behaviour over public space. Youngsters want to "hang out", but adults find such behaviour intrusive and threatening' (Page 46 Policing Citizens).

Yet it is in these open spaces where the young have the chance to express themselves, they are no longer under house rules, this is where they can be themselves with their friends without having a watchful eye cast over them by a 'rule setting', 'moral inflicting' adult. This can be were conflict with policing nuisance may arise, because the guardians are not around to 'police' their children's behaviour, it is down to police discretion as to how behaviour will be dealt with. The young fashionably rebel against rules, and when faced with a punitive stance to rebellious behaviour they rebel that bit more, it is what one could describe as a vicious circle, however, this does not mean that young people should be free to go about their business without prior thought for others, they need to be shown to be wrong when causing undue stress to others with their actions. 

On the 31st March 2004, a 21-year-old male from Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, was murdered whilst returning home from a night out. On his journey home he was involved in altercations with what has since been reported as a group of between 15 – 20 youths. Circumstances surrounding the murder remain undisclosed, however, what we may bring into question, is, what were this relatively vast number of youths doing, walking the public streets at such an anti-social time of the morning. Not only do we bring into the equation, what the youths were doing, but also the parent's knowledge of their children walking the streets at such a time, has to be examined if public confidence in the young is to be improved.

Parents set the example, they negotiate the rules, in which case they need to be held somewhat accountable for a child's actions until that child reaches adulthood. This case is not an instance of nuisance in terms of this essay, but is a criminal offence, however, it amplifies the fine line to what can start out as deviant circumstances, i.e. a group of 15 – 20 youths walking the streets in the early hours of the morning, creating a nuisance in that residents would be somewhat fearful, into an altercation and penultimately, murder. The point here; if the intitial nuisance was policed, a crime may not have had chance to run its course.

In instances where behaviour is distressing fellow residents of a community, the adults need to show a cohesive dismay at anti-social behaviour, in order to show the youths that their actions are unreasonable; otherwise they may not see what they do as harmful to others. "Although not necessarily wrong or a crime, young people's behaviour can still cause people to be annoyed, intimidated or live in fear of crime. Young people are not necessarily aware that other people can be affected by their behaviour" (http://www.renewal.net/Documents/Overview/Crime/Youthnuisance.DOC).