Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Structured Recreation Programming Can Help Reduce Juvenile Crime

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Structured Recreation Programming Can Help Reduce Juvenile Crime

Article excerpt

For the past several decades, one of the most troubling issues facing cities and towns throughout the country is the prevalence of juvenile crime. Affecting rural, urban and suburban communities, this problem is not unique to a specific geographic region. Criminal activity and delinquency among youth occurs (to varying degrees) across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. As parents, civic leaders, and park and recreation professionals, when confronted with such a pervasive matter, we must seek ways to provide safe, structured programs that help youth fill unsupervised time with positive activities.

The primary catalyst in the rise of delinquency among minors is largely attributable to major shifts in workforce demographics. Since the 1960s, our country has experienced an almost 50 percent increase in the labor force participation rate of women. Today, almost 76 percent of women with school-age children are working, either in homes of two-parent earners or homes of single-parent earners. While this change to the U.S. workforce has been positive, we have largely been unable to mitigate ancillary impacts to working families, including an increase in unsupervised time for youths. This becomes apparent when considering that the majority of juvenile crime occurs predominantly during the week --as opposed to on the weekend--in the hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In the unsupervised time between when school ends and parents return from work, children are far more likely to commit crime, engage in risky behaviors or be victims of crime.

As recreation providers, what is our role in addressing the costs, both social and economic, of juvenile crime? Studies have shown that the most essential requisite for programs to reduce delinquency is that they provide structured, supervised activities to youth. One study on the impact of structure in after-school programs found that during unstructured time problem behaviors increased. …

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