Young people and crime: they’re not as bad as we think
28 June 2010
New research from NFER once again opens up the mismatch between the perceptions of the extent to which young people are involved in crime and anti-social behaviour, and the reality.
What is the context?
Despite statistical evidence showing that fewer young people are now involved in offending, public perception has yet to change, with a majority of British adults overestimating the number of young people involved in crime. This leaves young people facing the challenge of growing up in a culture that has widespread negative perceptions of youth.
The NFER study, Positivity in practice: approaches to improving perceptions of young people and their involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour focuses on the range of approaches that local authorities and their partner organisations are undertaking to improve these negative perceptions, and highlights the need for a more co-ordinated and strategic approach.
Hearing young people’s voices, rather than speaking on their behalf. Young people are getting involved in all stages of activities designed to improve their profile and public image and being given opportunities to be part of the solution to crime. It is also important to allow them the chance to respond directly to the negativity often levelled at them in the media and at public meetings.
Intergenerational activities can be highly successful. They specifically bring together younger and older people, who can have a particularly negative view, and provide opportunities to learn from each other and to challenge stereotypical views and misconceptions.
Highly visible activities, including the use of facilities which can be set up in ‘hot spot’ areas, can have significant impacts on public perceptions.
What are the benefits?
The increased engagement of young people in positive activities.
A decrease in negative behaviour by young people.
A greater understanding, amongst adults, of young people’s behaviour.
A community-wide improvement in the promotion and profile of young people.
What needs to be done?
Local authorities should:
Undertake an audit of current activities designed to have a positive impact on perceptions and measure the impact of these activities more systematically. This will provide clearer direction for those developing, commissioning and championing work locally.
Adopt a more strategic approach with coordinated activities, rather than many different groups undertaking activities independently.
NFER’s Kerry Martin said, ‘The need to address the negative perceptions of young people is acknowledged to be important and various national and local targets for improvement have been set. This study raises a number of ideas that can be taken forward by policy makers and strategic leads at both national and local level’.
The report Positivity in practice: approaches to improving perceptions of young people and their involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour is available at: /publications/PYC01/
Notes to editors:
The aim of this NFER-funded research was to investigate the approaches being taken by local authorities and partner organisations to improve how young people are perceived, especially in relation to youth crime and anti-social behaviour. The study also looked at the challenges and benefits of activities to improve public perceptions about young people, and the methods used to measure the impact of these activities.
The project’s methods included: an initial desk-based study of policy documents, research papers and media reports; telephone interviews with staff from 20 local authorities/areas (including personnel from the Integrated Youth Support and Development Service, Youth Offending Service, Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships/Community Safety Partnerships); and three case studies involving interviews with front-line staff and young people.