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UNICEF Tough is Not Enough Getting Smart About Youth Crime

UNICEF Tough is Not Enough Getting Smart About Youth Crime

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Published by Francisco Estrada

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Francisco Estrada on Nov 18, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Policing is often seen by the public as the panacea for offending – more police equals less crime.
In fact, very little is known about the impact of policing on offending. Perhaps the most
comprehensive statement on the topic comes from Sherman et.al. in their mammoth 1998 review
of the literature. They conclude that connecting policing to risk factors for offending is the most
important aspect of making policing effective. Simply hiring more police and having them more
active has not shown a great impact on re-offending.

The four approaches that Sherman et.al. list as effective are:

increased directed patrols in street-corner hotspots of crime, or at high-risk times

proactive arrests of serious repeat offenders

proactive drunk driving arrests

arrests of employed suspects of domestic assault.

Obviously, not all of these apply equally to young people, but the first two are particularly
relevant. The second point is probably the most important, along with the fact that arrest of some
juveniles for minor offences reliably doesn’t work.


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of offenders

However, an examination of the tables of studies provided by Sherman suggests that this is not
actually accurate for juvenile offenders. All but one study (including the most rigorous study)
found that arresting juveniles resulted in increased offending. The only exception was for first
offenders who were arrested. However, this may be misleading, as the juveniles who were
arrested may have been at high risk of re-offending, whatever the approach used with them.

Another effective approach which isn’t covered in the above list is police treating offenders fairly,
which was associated with lower offending in several studies (Sherman et.al.1998). Goldblatt
and Lewis (1998) concur with this finding. They looked at studies of police efforts to reduce fear
and suspicion towards themselves, and to treat people with respect. The conclusion was that
such approaches were promising and had a positive effect on the degree of cooperation the
police got from the community, and on re-offending for domestic violence. None of these were
specifically with young offenders, however.

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