A study in Australia has concluded that the significant decline in crime rates among youths, that has been seen in recent years, was down to them staying at home and playing on their Xboxes.
The Australian Institute of Criminology has recently published a report entitled, ‘Where have all the young offenders gone?’ and noted that the state of New South Wales had seen the largest and longest decline in crime on record.
It found that by the age of 21, the proportion of the population that had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved. The largest declines were found in vehicle theft, property theft and drink-driving.
And the study believes that technology could be a major factor.
The boffins concluded that kids today know they’re now under constant surveillance, knowing that property theft is likely to be observed, while security technology has made stealing a lot harder. I mean, it’s just so difficult to nick a car nowadays.
And, of course, kids today are more likely to be at home than they once were.
There is little doubt that the routine activities of young people have changed, with less time spent in unsupervised circumstances in which opportunistic offending may be more attractive, such as ‘hanging out’ on the streets with like-minded peers.
Increased opportunities for home entertainment through the internet may have increased the prevalence of virtual interactions that limit or undermine opportunities for traditional forms of crime.- Australian Institute of Criminology: study, ‘Where have all the young offenders gone?’
But, the study noted stay-at-home kids may be involved in other, newer forms of crime which are less easily detected. In particular, the growth of social media and online social networking may be avenues for antisocial and criminal behaviour online, which are less scrutinised by parents and the authorities.
But overall the authors were optimistic that this displacement was preferable, despite the problems thrown up by virtual anti-social and criminal behaviour. For example, as youths are less exposed to traditional crimes such as property theft the less they will consider it an option.
The study also highlighted the positive role of numerous schemes with at-risk youths that may have worked.
So, parents when you’re about to berate your surly teenager from playing too much Grand Theft Auto, remember they could be out doing it for real.
Image: Silvio Sousa Cabral