Youth Justice - Race and crime


Race and crime

  • Arguably, young people have generally been a source of adult anxiety about crime - in recent decades - much of the attention has been focused on minority ethnic youths
  • Increased concern arose during 1970s - due to "mugging panic" and other signs of poor/deteriorating relationships between the police and black youths
  • Mugging panic - mugging received alot of media coverage during august 1972 and august 1973 in the form of crime reports, features, editorials, statements by the representatives of police, judges - MORAL PANIC 
  • War declared on "muggers" 
  • Concerns about black youths and criminality were reinforced by the release of statistics by the Met Police which stated that crime rates are particularly high amongst African Americans 
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Over representation of black youths

Black youths often over-represented

  • Young black people are overrepresented as suspects for certain crimes - such as robbery, drug offences and in some areas - firearm offences
  • When young people are asked in surveys whether they have offended, overall differences between groups reduce or disappear
  • Self-reporting young black people have the highest reported levels of robbery - but much lower than what would be expected from official statistics
  • Surveys show that white youths have the highest over all offending rates
  • Young blacks more likely to be victims of violent crimes

Extend of over representation

  • Young blacks represent fewer than 3% of all 10 to 17 year olds but are 6% of those within the YJS 
  • Asians aged 10-17 under represented in arrests, cautions and youth custody 
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Police and youth justice processes

Young black/mixed youths more likely than young whites and asian youths to be:

  • stopped and searched by the police
  • experience higher rates of prosecution and conviction
  • remand in custody
  • receive harsher sentences

Young blacks less likely than whites to:

  • be given unconditional bail
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Case studies

Felizer and Hood (2004)

  • studies 17,054 12-17 year old white, asian, black and mixed young people in 8 youth offending team areas
  • study concluded that once the characteristics of each case had been taken into account - different outcomes at different stages of youth justice process - outcomes were consistent with discriminatory treatment of asian and black males 

May et al (2010)

  • repeated same study
  • interviewed 18,083 young people and police officers
  • also asked whether different treatment by ethnicity appears at entry to the youth justice system - at the policing stage?
  • concluded there may be discrimination - differences between ethnic groups could not be accounted for by features of the offence or criminal history of suspects/defendants 
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Case study findings about the police

  • Proactive arrests (e.g. drugs and road traffic offences) account for a significant inflow into the youth justice system leaving ample scope for differential policing to shape these inflows. 
  • Although confrontational policing was sometimes necessary and/or provoked by others, young people and police sometimes brought their own stereotypes and prejudices to the encounter, reflecting long histories of difficult relations between police and public
  • Different policing areas adopted markedly different styles of policing, and these styles affected the numbers and profile of young people entering the youth justice system. Some were highly proactive, others more reactive. 
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Case study 3

MaAra and McVie (2005):

  • police do disproportionately target certain groups of children who might accurately be described as the ‘usual suspects
  • this suspect population targets young boys from lower class backgrounds and broken families, who live in areas of high social deprivation, who have an active street life - more likely to deal with police 
  • analysis indicates that it is the volume and seriousness of their offending, which is key to understanding why children first come to the attention of the police
  • However, once identified as a trouble-maker, this status appears to **** young people into a spiral of amplified contact, regardless of whether they continue to be involved in serious levels of offending
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Race and homicide

  • Gun and knife crime related homicides among black young people have been of real concern
  • Between 1999 and 2005 in London fully two thirds of all male victims of homicide aged 10-17, and 58% aged 18-20, were black, yet black men make up only 7% of London’s population
  • Nationally, between 2007 and 2010 12% of homicide victims were black and 8% were Asian
  • Homicides since have greatly reduced - due to programs and interventions?

black people as victims of homicide

ages 10-17 - male - 64%

ages 0-9 - female - 53%

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Case study: stop and search

  • studies find that the police and the courts discriminate in some areas and not others – policing and justice by geography?
  • places like london the police greatly disproportionately target predominantly black areas and robbery offences
  • Oxford University research found that in the 10 years after Macpherson between 1999/2000 and 2009/2010, stop and searches for black and Asian people more than doubled, while the rate for white people rose only slightly
  • In 1999-2000, the stop rate for black people was 4.9 per 100 population. By 2009-10, the rate was 10.8 per 100 black people.
  • The rate doubled for Asian people, while for white people it only marginally increased from 1.5 to 1.6 stops per 100 citizens.
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Stop and search and Terrorism Acts

  • In 2009/10 of the 101,248 people stopped and searched under these powers, none of them were arrested for terrorism-related offences
  • Only 0.5 per cent was arrested for any offence, compared with a 10% arrest rate for street searches under normal police powers 
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Theory: cultural explenations

  • Black children and young men are said to lack good male role models and disproportionately live in disrupted or lone parent families, lacking parental supervision
  • Exposed to a distinctive black ‘outlaw culture’ driven by the desire to gain status, self-esteem and power by means of street crime
  • Consumer culture - the pressure of logos and branding plays a part in linking criminal identities and consumer culture - why this should be distinctive to black groups remains unclear as the same phenomenon is identified among white groups
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Theory: immigration and crime thesis?

Three stage argument:

1) First-generation immigrants are typically more law-abiding than the general population, whereas subsequent generations – at least for a while – suffer assimilation problems that produce elevated offending and imprisonment rates compared to their parents and the general population.

2) Informal and family controls break down over subsequent generations of the children and young people of the original migrants – at least for some groups.

3) The reasons are because subsequent generations – usually natives by birth themselves – accrue higher expectations of being accepted and culturally assimilating than their parents, but this is thwarted by racial discrimination and hostility, lack of opportunity and deprivation.. 

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Theory: "risk" and socio-economic explentations

  • This cultural argument discounts any significant explanatory role for police and criminal justice discrimination, deprivation and poor educational levels brought by poor schools, or neighbourhood effects.
  • For example, deprivation and youth might make BME young people proportionally more available at peak offending ages than white young people.
  • Black children are more likely to be in care, have no or fewer qualifications, and not be in education, training or employment compared to white young people. 
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