Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chicken-licken the sky is falling

More ‘out-of-control youth’ stories from the Home Office, and irritating that the Independent has bought into it. Take a look at our blog entry for last Thursday, and then read this sloppy story.

We can see we’re going to have to expand on that DYG Report to put some flesh on the bones:

“Almost half a million youngsters belong to teenage gangs that regularly break the law and intimidate their communities.”
That’s 6% of all young people. Regularly? The relevant study criterion is that they had broken the law together at least once during the last 12 months
“Many take illegal drugs, carry weapons and have been involved in serious violence, as well as vandalising property and frightening passers-by.”
Out of that 6% of young people:
51% had taken drugs
13% had carried a knife
29% had used ‘force or violence’ – note the absence of the word ‘serious’
36 % were responsible for graffiti
31% had been ‘breaking, damaging or destroying things’
40% had threatened or frightened people
“A Home Office study of gang culture - the first official report into the phenomenon - paints a bleak picture of the lure of youth gangs…”
Bleak? Hang on a minute, 7.5 million young people do not belong to gangs. That’s at least 6 million less than the press and the Home Office have led the general public to believe.
“The fear is that some youngsters could graduate to the adult criminal gangs involved in drug-dealing and serious theft found in most major British cities.”
What? Whose fear? Where does that come from? It’s not even mentioned in the report! Some evidence would be nice.
“A recent study by Edinburgh University...discovered that youngsters were often prompted to join gangs after they became victims of crime themselves.”
Often? What the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime actually said was that being a victim of crime made it 7 times more likely that a young person would commit a crime.

As an aside, this same research team said that any contact with youth justice agencies at any level makes young people
more likely to offend. Strange that the Home Office didn't issue a press release on that particular story. Perhaps if they had read it properly they wouldn’t have said:
"The Home Office works in partnership with other organisations, including the Youth Justice Board and Department for Education and Skills, to prevent children and young people starting to offend."
Well, yes, that's what researchers are telling you! It's part of the problem - not the solution! Talk about selective listening... We've already outlined the Home Office's myriad ‘early intervention’ youth justice schemes over on our other blog.

Quite honestly, you’d think the Home Office had enough to do just at the moment. On the other hand, I guess a spot of 'delinquent youth' shroud-waving is a good crowd-pleaser. It does make us rather afraid of what they're about to do, though.

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