Australian Institute of Criminology | 3
•be less experienced at committingoffences;•commit offences in groups;•commit offences in public areas suchas on public transport or in shoppingcentres; and•commit offences close to where they live.In addition, by comparison with adults, juveniles tend to commit offences that are:•attention-seeking, public and gregarious;and•episodic, unplanned and opportunistic(Cunneen & White 2007).Some offences committed disproportionatelyby juveniles, such as motor vehicle theft,have high reporting rates due to insurancerequirements (Cunneen & White 2007). Thismay result in young people coming to policeattention more frequently. In addition, somebehaviours (such as underage drinking) areillegal solely because of the minority statusof the perpetrator. Research hasdemonstrated that some offence typescommitted disproportionately by juveniles(such as motor vehicle thefts and assaults)are the types of offences most likely to berepeated (Cottle, Lee & Heilbrun 2001).It is also important to note that broadlegislative or policy changes candisproportionately impact upon juvenilesand increase their contact with the police.Farrell’s (2009) analysis of police ‘move on’powers clearly demonstrates, for example,that the introduction of these powers hasdisproportionately affected particular groupsof citizens, including juveniles.
Why juvenile offendingdiffers from adult offending
It is clear that the characteristics of juvenileoffending are different from those of adultoffending in a variety of ways. This sectionsummarises research literature on why thisis the case.
Risk-taking and peer inuence
Research on adolescent brain developmentdemonstrates that the second decade of lifeis a period of rapid change, particularlyin the areas of the brain associated with
The proportion of juvenilewho come into contact withthe criminal justice system
Despite the strong relationship betweenage and offending behaviour, the majorityof young people never come into formalcontact with the criminal justice system. The longitudinal study by Allard et al. (2010)found that of all persons born in Queenslandin 1990, 14 percent had one or more formalcontacts (caution, youth justice conferenceor court appearance) with the criminal justicesystem by the age of 17 years, although thisvaried substantially by Indigenous statusand sex. Indigenous juveniles were 4.5 timesmore likely to have contact with the criminal justice system than non-Indigenous juveniles.Sixty-three percent of Indigenous males and28 percent of Indigenous females had had acontact with the criminal justice system as a juvenile, compared with 13 percent of non-Indigenous males and seven percent of non-Indigenous females (Allard et al. 2010).
The types of offences thatare perpetrated by juveniles
Certain types of offences (such as grafti,vandalism, shoplifting and fare evasion) arecommitted disproportionately by youngpeople. Conversely, very serious offences(such as homicide and sexual offences) arerarely perpetrated by juveniles. In addition,offences such as white collar crimes arecommitted infrequently by juveniles, as theyare incompatible with juveniles’developmental characteristics and lifecircumstances.On the whole, juveniles are more frequentlyapprehended by police in relation tooffences against
than offencesagainst the
. The proportion of juveniles who come into contact with thepolice for property crimes varies across jurisdictions, from almost one-third in NewSouth Wales to almost two-thirds in Victoria(Richards 2009). Differences among jurisdictions can result from a variety of factors, including legislative denitions of offences, counting measures used to recordoffences and recording practices, as wellas genuine differences in rates of offending. Although not available for all jurisdictions,the most recent data indicate that:•in Victoria during 2008–09, 66 percent of juvenile alleged offenders, compared with46 percent of adult alleged offenders,recorded by police were apprehendedin relation to property crime (VictoriaPolice 2009);•in Queensland during the same period,property offences comprised 58 percentof offences for which juveniles wereapprehended by police, compared with22 percent of offences for which adultswere apprehended (Queensland PoliceService 2009); and•in South Australia during 2007–08,property crimes comprised 46 percentof all crimes for which juveniles wereapprehended, compared with 24 percentfor adults (South Australia Police 2008).Offences for which juveniles were mostfrequently adjudicated by the Children’sCourts in Australia during 2007–08 wereacts intended to cause injury (16%), theft(14%), unlawful entry with intent (12%), roadtrafc offences (11%) and deception (fareevasion and related offences—also 11%; ABS 2009). Combined, these offencesaccounted for nearly two-thirds of defendants appearing before the Children’sCourts during this period (ABS 2009).By comparison, offences for which adultswere most frequently adjudicated in theHigher Courts during 2007–08 were actsintended to cause injury (23%), illicit drugsoffences (18%), sexual assault (15%),robbery/extortion (11%) and unlawful entrywith intent (9%; ABS 2009). Offencesfor which adults were most frequentlyadjudicated in the Magistrates Courtsduring 2007–08 were road trafc offences(45%), public order offences (11%),dangerous or negligent acts endangeringpersons (9%), acts intended to cause injury(8%), offences against justice procedures(6%), theft (5%) and illicit drugs offences(also 5%; ABS 2009).
The nature of juvenile offending
Juveniles are more likely than adults tocome to the attention of police, for a varietyof reasons. As Cunneen and White (2007)explain, by comparison with adults, juvenilestend to: