Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

'Out on the Street It's like a Brotherhood of Sorts': The Commonality of Violent Offending within Scottish and Australian Street-Orientated Youth Subcultures

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

'Out on the Street It's like a Brotherhood of Sorts': The Commonality of Violent Offending within Scottish and Australian Street-Orientated Youth Subcultures

Article excerpt

Introduction

Clearly, not all young people who 'hang-out' together in groups are involved in deviant activities. Despite this reality, even congregations of socially conforming young people engender public concern and are frequently misconstrued as being troublesome by Police, politicians and the media alike. Indeed, words like 'troublesome youth' that are bandied about by such individuals tend to not only create a public sense of insecurity and concern around youth disorder, but also tend to add to the general public's underlying teenaphobic fear and moral panic around young people (1-2).

While the majority of conforming young people congregate together for socialization purposes, there also exists a minority group of young people who associate and assemble together in order to establish a non-conforming reputational identity. This is characteristically achieved by providing public demonstrations of their physical daring and willingness to engage in dangerous, violent and/or criminal acts (3). Moreover, the experience of engaging in antisocial/criminal activities provides the marginalized group with two motivational rewards. First, the thrill of the adrenalin rush to be had from succeeding in achieving an antisocial/criminal act, and second, the sense of security that committing an antisocial/criminal act in the company of like-minded peers provides the perpetrator (4).

Non-conforming youth groups of this ilk are defined by the Eurogang Network as being durable street-orientated assemblies of young people whose collective social identity is constructed around criminal offending (1, 5). More recently, researchers have extended this definition by noting that members of non-conforming groups of young people tend to be drawn predominantly from disadvantaged backgrounds and that their identity seeking behaviours and organisational structure tends to be centred round petty and violent crime (4-6). Indeed, high involvement in violent crime among troublesome youth groups is one of the most robust and consistent observations of criminological research.

Two such troublesome youth groups, namely, street gangs and graffiti crews have historically been construed as being distinct and operationally dissimilar entities. More recently, however, it has been revealed that graffiti crews display some of the violent attributes of street gangs and that their members engage in some of the criminal activities (e.g., burglary, robbery and vehicle theft) that were formally considered the domain of youth gangs (3-4, 7). The present study sought to examine the similarities between the perspectives of two geographically disparate troublesome youth groups ( youth gangs in Glasgow, Scotland and graffiti crews in Perth, Western Australia) so as to uncover any further commonality in their behaviours.

Urban disorder

The dual notions of urban disorder and the congregation of non-conforming groups of young people are comparable to the 'broken windows' theory of urban disorder and crime (8). The point of the argument being that if a building's window is broken and left unrepaired, then other windows will soon be broken as the community interprets the first broken window to be a sign that no-one cares (8). Analogous to this is that unsanctioned congregations of urban youth hanging around streets doing nothing are likely to have their 'doing nothing' interpreted as either 'loitering with intent' or engagement in 'street terror' (9). In turn, the general public perceives that if such groups of young people are allowed to continue their street loitering behaviours, then they will progress towards engagement in violent and/or criminal offending (10). What is interesting in this scenario is that no clear clarification exists as to what constitutes youth violent offending. For instance, some studies limit the classification of violent offending to offences against individuals (e.g., armed robbery, physical/sexual assault & weapons offences), while others include acts of violence against property (e. …

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