Youth Crime Falling but Research Shows Public Think It's Going Up

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 5, 2007 | Go to article overview

Youth Crime Falling but Research Shows Public Think It's Going Up


Byline: By Robin Turner Western Mail

Our fears of the Asbo generation are way out of proportion with reality, Welsh researchers have claimed. A study by academics at Swansea University asked 500 people of different ages what they thought about youth crime.

They found 60% of respondents felt youth offences had increased over the past two years, with older people significantly more likely to believe it.

In fact, official youth crime, as reported by the Swansea Youth Offending Team, had fallen 26% between 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005.

Also, when it came to theft and violent crime, women and younger people believed offences carried out by youngsters were much higher than they actually were.

Dr Haines, of the university's centre for criminology, said, "The public also seems to be ambivalent about what punishment should be handed out for youth crime.

"While there is general support for prison and a perception sentencing is generally too lenient, this co-exists with support for community-based sentencing for young people."

He believes the "paradox" is caused because while people want offenders to be punished there are also widespread doubts about the efficacy of prison sentences."

He said the study, carried out in Swansea, had unearthed a serious discrepancy between truth and perception.

He said, "There seems to be a profound disconnection between how the Swansea public perceives youth crime and the reality. Those who took part in our study believe that the situation is worse than it actually is.

"In fact their views are more in line with general perceptions of levels of youth crime throughout England and Wales, suggesting that national media and political debate plays a role in how they form their perceptions on these issues more than their own experiences or the actual situation locally. As a result, local dialogue and debate between the public and those managing youth crime and justice, frequently takes place in a climate of mutual misunderstanding which further compromises public confidence in youth justice systems."

Former Crimewatch host Nick Ross strongly believes the public perception of crime is out of step with reality.

And this summer he made an outspoken attack on the media for distorting crime figures.

He said, "The media have long been peddling a big lie about crime, either that or they have been astonishingly incompetent about persuading their listeners, readers and viewers of the truth because the truth is that crime has been declining for well over a decade. …

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