The police is an institution in society that is granted certain powers and responsibilities. It faces several different tasks, among the most important is maintaining order and preserving constitutional rights. The conflict arises when public expectation of order collides with the right of young people to be on the street. The complexity of these roles can illustrate the problem police is faced with daily. The police have a high level of contact with people under the age of 18. “UCR data indicate that juveniles account for about 17% of all arrests and nearly 29% of arrests for Index crimes.” When juveniles hang out on corners or ride around town, they create citizen conflict, regarding the use of public space.
The term juvenile delinquent was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid being classified in legal records as criminals. The laws were designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, for juvenile offenders. The justice system is trying to change the way it deals with the American youth. For years the juvenile system has been weak and punitive allowing many abuses to take place. The fate of the juvenile delinquent is left to the complete discretion of the officer. The officer controls whether or not to arrest the juvenile and decide the seriousness of the offense. This leads to a lack of objectiveness, opening doors to biases mood swings. Juveniles know that much of the law is written for adults therefore abuse the system. Kids are aware that if they are caught shoplifting the punishment for such crime would be a slap on the wrist. Furthermore they know that unless they commit a serious offense such as murder, rape or armed robbery the punishment will be light. Because the criminal justice laws for juveniles is broader than that for adults offenders, the police have several options when faced with misconduct.
+ No action. The police officer may choose to take no formal action against the juvenile, even through probable cause may exist for an arrest.
then released at the police station. Although the juvenile was technically
arrested, there many be no official record of the arrest.
+ Release to a parent or guardian.
recorded arrest. The suspect may or may not be detained in a juvenile facility.
Even though many problems still remain the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has improved the way juvenile delinquency is treated. State juvenile system emphasizes rehabilitation through volunteer programs and community service. The central mandate of (JJDP) Act consist of deinstitutionalizing the status of offenders. This implies that states are required to remove all status offenders.
Family structure and social environment may have a bearing on which a child will become a delinquent. Family structure is crucial to child development, furthermore a body of research indicates that youth from single-parent homes, especially if female-based, often face more severe dispositions than those from intact homes. The homes of single-parent may have fewer resources to provide needed support. Single parent families usually have the parent working long hours for survival. If the parent is away from home the children have less supervision and more opportunity for delinquency. If a parent is busy working, the child might turn to a gang for support, affection, and a family-type environment. If conflict arises in a home between child and parent, the child might lean towards mischief out spite and for attention. The youth s social environment way also facilitate the participation in delinquency. According to Gang Suppression and Intervention: Problem and Response, even though juvenile delinquency may not be explicitly accepted, it may be traditional among inner-cities. The extent to which some families condone or implicitly approve participation in gangs may be a contributing factor, particularly if the youth contributes to the family financially. So sometimes kids are driven towards crime and stealing because of necessity. A series of studies have shown that delinquency rates are above average in the poorest sections of cities. Communities that suffer from community disintegration and increasing poverty, such as ghettos, may have poor schools, high unemployment, few recreational facilities, and high crime rates. Many young people see delinquency as their only escape from boredom, poverty, and other problems. Even though delinquency may prevail in ghettos, other communities are not entirely free from such activity. Gangs, formal groups of delinquents, prevail in America everywhere. Gangs can be found not only in ghetto s but also big cities and suburban areas. Also children of upper-middle or middle class may turn to delinquency if parents are away or just unaware. Social environments have strong influences on children, but the family is just as important if not more so an influence on the lifestyles children choose.
Juvenile delinquency is a widespread epidemic that should not be taken lightly. Many steps should be taken by parents, schools, communities and the police force to ensure and end to such widespread juvenile delinquency. Families must provide support for their children. Parents must show wise methods for dealing with the family problems and conflicts. The parents should show and interest in their children and become involved in their day to day lives. Another factor that might lead to delinquency is a child s peers. It is important that parents watch who their children spend their time with. Parents can instill confidence in their children, because a confident child can hold his/her ground and not give into peer pressure. Parents must provide their children with good ethical and moral principles. Parents must also ensure a safe haven in their homes. Children in abused homes should be placed in safer environments because, violence usually tend to breed more violence. It is necessary that schools increase safety, this way children have safe environment where they can focus on learning. It is the job of schools to implement children with skills and knowledge necessary for personal achievement and success. Schools could institute more clubs and after hour activities for further teenage involvement. The police and the local community have to reduce the availability of drugs and weapons. Safer parks and more recreational areas could be placed in areas of high crime. Curfews ordinances instituted in all major cities to lower delinquency and victimization. The streets must be made safe. Communities can come together and form healthier environments where juvenile delinquency can be combated. Communities suffering from the affects of alcoholism, unemployment, incarceration, AIDS, or lack of educational opportunities lack the right environment for growing children. If more counseling and rehabilitation centers were available to juveniles, their dependency of delinquency might cease. Different opportunities such as jobs, community service, or youth centers must be provided to keep children busy off the streets. Mentor programs (Big Brother & Sisters), (G.R.E.A.T.) and (P.A.L.) to name a few can provide a positive influence on children. Most of these programs are headed local police departments all over the country educating students while in school and showing them the proper ways for prevention.
The problem of juvenile crime frustrates everybody in the community. There are many tragedies happening which should not be happening; kids who could be helped but aren t being; kids who need to be punished and put away, and yet they re getting out. A number of cases come through the juvenile courts, an offender may come repeatedly once, twice, or even three, and still be out on the street. Our nations juvenile system is not working and in turn is failing us. It is failing to provide a solution to the growth of youth violence and fulfill its role for a safer community. The failure has created an immediate state of panic to target certain serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders for prosecution. Prosecution in criminal courts would be for those juveniles whose offenses are serious and rehabilitation has not worked. Research shows that, although these serious, violent, and chronic offenders compromise only 6 to 8 percent of the total juvenile offender population, they account for a disproportionately large number of offenses. The juvenile system is in the process of a major revolutionary change. A slow change has been taking place during the past decade to remove more serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders from the juvenile justice system and turn them over to criminal courts. Twelve States authorize prosecutors to file certain categories of juvenile cases directly in criminal court. By 1993, Florida prosecutors alone had filed criminal charges in 7,000 cases involving offenders under age 18 compared to 2,000 filed in 1978 nationwide. Through this change it frees and enables the juvenile justice system to focus its attention on the larger group of at-risk youth who can benefit from the delinquency prevention and intervention strategies.
Many efforts have made to develop programs of delinquency prevention. Most of the programs are still fairly new to get an accurate answer whether they are truly effective. Some programs provide counseling services to juveniles who appear to becoming delinquents. Other programs draw youngsters into clubs and recreational centers in an effort to keep them away from situations in which delinquency is likely to occur. Recently efforts are being placed on the educational and work skills of youngsters. For those juveniles who have already become delinquents, there are programs designed to prevent them from committing future delinquent acts. Probation services are offered through juvenile courts in an effort to provide guidance for delinquent children. The newer institutions for juveniles attempt to provide treatment programs for offenders work experiences, counseling, education, and group therapy. It is a societal problem, a problem of values, and a problem of families.
1. Samuel Walker, The Police In America, University of Nebreska at Omaha, McGraw-
Hill, Inc 1992.
Portland State University, July 1995.
Intervention: Problem and Response, October 1994.
4. Shay Bilchik, Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice
Action Plan, March 1996.
5. Holden, Kapler, Juvenile Justice, Fall/Winter 1995.