Academic journal article Capital & Class

Youth, Age and the Representation of Fear

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Youth, Age and the Representation of Fear

Article excerpt

In working against media representations of the young as a mindless and violent cabal this paper focuses on young people as victims of harassment and fear. While this reality has been recognised for some time it is clear that the victimhood of young people remains largely absent from public debates. As such it is argued that a process of felon setting against youth reflects the more common positioning of youth by society and the state as feared, out of control, and in need of regulation. The aim of this paper is to illustrate how the production and regulation of young people's space is central to the persistence of this paradox, and reinforced by the continued emphasis on young people as offenders in the policy arena. The paper also draws out the geographies of risk for young people, arguing that dualisms and distinctions between victim/offender, feared/fearful, public/private, and safe/dangerous spaces need to be dismantled, if the complex and multiple position of young people in relation to fear of crime is to be acknowledged and addressed.

Introduction

Young people experience high rates of property crime, violent crime, harassment and fear. While in some quarters this has been recognised for some time, generally young people remain almost completely absent from public debates about victimisation and fear. Youth tends to be criminalised in public policy and primarily associated with offending, reflecting the broader positioning of youth by society and the state as feared, out of control, and in need of regulation (Carlen, 1996; Muncie, 1999). If anything this paradox is sharpening, not diminishing, as evidence mounts about young people as significant victims of crime and fear. One of the aims of this paper is to show that the production and regulation of young people's space is central to the persistence of this paradox, and reinforced by the continued emphasis on young people as offenders in the policy arena. I present evidence from two recent studies of young people, vicrimisation and fear of crime based in north east England.

After describing the methodologies employed in the two research studies, I outline how concerns about the safety of children and young people reflect broader control of their access to and movement within different spaces. The current policy context in England and Wales is then detailed to demonstrate that the issue of young people as victims is submerged by the increasing criminalisation of youth. Here I will present evidence about young people's victimisation and fear of crime from the two research studies, and compare this evidence with the ways they are commonly represented. From this research I draw out the geographies of risk for young people, arguing that dualisms and distinctions between victim/offender, feared/fearful, public/private, and safe/dangerous spaces need to be dismantled, if the complex and multiple position of young people in relation to fear of crime is to be acknowledged and addressed. The paper ends by outlining some of the problems with the recent shift to 'community safety' policy, a nd barriers to the representation of young people as victims within the community safety planning structures which are now in place.

Methods

Findings will be presented from two recent research projects on children and young people's experiences of victimisation and fear of crime carried out in north east England between 2000 and 2001. The first is a study of the victimisation experiences, fear of crime and sources of support among 10-16 year olds in the town of Gateshead. It was commissioned by Gateshead Victim Support in order to address the lack of knowledge and support services regarding young people as victims of crime. The research drew on a representative sample of young people across the town attending nine primary schools, four secondary schools, two exclusion units, and one school for children with physical disabilities. Ten discussion groups were carried out with 55 children, followed by a questionnaire survey of 1069 children. …

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