Should we be tough on crime or tough on the causes of crime?

The group presentation was based on the topic 'should we be tough on crime or tough on the causes of crime? ' This title is very broad and could refer to a wide scope of areas within the subject, so the topic was narrowed down, so our group focuses on Youth offending. Youth offending is a very familiar subject, local newspapers seem to be dominated by crimes committed by young people. The aim of my part of the research was to explore the social trends in a delinquent's life to find out what causes young people to turn to delinquency, by providing reliable and valid information.

The objective was to find out from this information whether 'we should be tough on the causes of crime', to see where the main problems are rooted. From my preliminary reading on crime, I know that crime stems from economic inequality, that major violent crimes take place in inner city areas, mainly in council estates, committed mainly by young males aged 16 – 24. The method of researching consisted of secondary source analysis (newspaper article; textbooks). The secondary source analysis entailed library-based research in order to identify relevant theories of youth offending in criminology.

One other significant resource utilised in this research was the Internet, which was convenient for downloading newspaper articles and obtaining data from the Homeoffice website. Data from different sources were compared to find any trends, to see if there could be conflicting data and to check for any biases. Information was then gathered from these sources and constructed in to explanations for the purpose of our argument. For my part of the research, I was also responsible for the conclusion, which meant that I would have to wait for other members to complete their part in order to summarise for the conclusion.

I wanted to provide up to date evidence that would support our points made during the presentation. The best method to acquire this information was through searching on the Internet which is easier and instantaneous. I wanted to find important points, than supporting that point by providing example (evidence) and followed by explanation. The Guardian newspaper Website (www. guardian. co. uk) retains archive of articles and has a search engine of its own. Using their search engine by entering the date so that the results are set out in ascending order and their relevancy to the topic aswell.

The articles provided useful and current news on issues surrounding the topic. On one particular article the writer, Batty, (Batty, D. May 29, 2002 'Youth justice: the issue explained') refers to the survey which was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found '11 to 16 year old school children in England, Scotland and Wales admit to having broken the Law'. This was by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Realising this is significant source to my part, used the search engine to find out more.

Following links was eventually led to the Website where they discussed the survey in more detail (www. epolitix. com/links). The Joseph Rowntree Foundation survey, was conducted in 2002, in which more than 14, 000 students participated in from English, Scottish and Welsh Secondary schools (years 7 – 11). This research was to assess the students' connection with anti-social activities. The survey revealed that 'nearly half of 11 to 16 year-old school children in England admit to having broken the law'.

The survey found that the environment the children are brought up in and how they are socialised into society and their values can determine whether there will be early problem behaviours that can lead to delinquency. The survey identified factors that can cause a pupil to become involved are known as 'risk factors'. The young people who are at most risk of being involved in antisocial activities were the ones who were 'exposed to risk factors'. Whereas the 'protective factors' protect pupil from such activities, which include better housing, mainly those from middle classes.

The survey indicates that there is a social trend in a delinquent's life. This survey showed that there are factors which trigger off a delinquent's behaviour. The Joseph Rowntree foundation survey can be supported by the inner city London study on delinquent development by Downes (1966). This data was found from library research in the book by North, P. (1985) 'An introduction to sociology: people in society', while searching through the index. Downes researched delinquency in the inner city and found that delinquency was a result of economic inequality – the 'risk factors' as identified in the survey.

Furthermore, one is likely to become a delinquent when that person is born into a situation where it is likely to promote delinquency (Heidensohn, 'Crime & Society) Next source acquired was the findings of youth crime from the 1998/99 youth lifestyle survey, which was obtained from the Home office website. This survey also reveals the risk factors for the persistent offending. The factors detected amongst the background of the offenders that year were very similar and also similar to those found in the Joseph Rowntree survey. So the data together with the 2002 survey provide are very reliable data for the topic.

I also wanted to learn and give valid evidence on what type of offenders commit the highest and the most serious crime, to see if there was any direct connection. I entered the Home office website and skimmed through the 98/99 findings on the youth crime statistics. I came across a line graph, which illustrated the point. The graph conveyed rates of offending for different types of offences, by age. The graph showed increase in crime as youths were getting older, when leaving secondary school, they had moved on to more serious crimes.