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Public Attitudes to Youth Crime: Report on Focus Group Research

NCJ Number
Jessica Jacobson; Amy Kirby
Date Published
July 2012
33 pages
This report presents the findings of a series of focus groups created to explore public attitudes toward youth crime in the United Kingdom.
The views of focus group participants were solicited on the following issues: The extent of crime and anti-social behavior (ASB) by youth in the local community and the perceived causes; restorative justice; and volunteering and the role of the community in preventing crime and in supporting youth justice. Regarding youth crime and ASB in local communities, participants spoke mostly about two issues: the intimidating presence of groups of youth on the streets and in parks, although they were not viewed as "gangs;" and vandalism and other criminal damage committed by youth. Participants also responded to four scenarios of youth crime, including what formal and informal options should be considered for youth in each crime scenario. Their complaints about poor discipline as the root cause of youth crime did not translate into highly punitive responses to the scenarios. Rather, their responses indicated significant support for countering low-level offending without resort to formal prosecution. Participants considered it important for young offenders to be taught about the consequences of their actions and make amends. Many participants were concerned about the potentially damaging long-term impact of a criminal record on a young person's prospects and viewed this as a reason for using informal rather than formal responses. First offenses were viewed as warranting an informal or lesser formal response with tougher action reserved for repeat misdemeanors. Most participants were positive about restorative justice; however, many favored its use mostly, or only, with minor offenses or first-time offenders. Although participants were willing to support community-justice schemes, they believed their effectiveness would depend on a strong infrastructure.