This paper discusses the youth crime trends in Canada, including the definition, historical perspective, public perceptions and official reports on youth crime. In the 18th century a child was considered a small size adult which means children were being treated equally with adults but by the end of 18th century, this began to change. Then with the beginning of industrial revolutionthe problem of youth crime started to bother general population. Starting from a historical perspective, this paper explores the reasons why the public opinions of youth crime are often misguided. It finds that negative media coverage and opinions of high profile professionals greatly influence the perceptions of public. It also discusses inaccuracies in official statistics reports on youth crime,keeping in mind that both under-reporting and over-reporting exist during the process of reporting crime incidents by the police and general public. Finally, based on the analysis of the public opinions and the pieces of evidence presented by the official reports, the paper concludes that youth crime rates in Canada has not been on the rise in recent years and it might have decreased slightlyafter Youth Criminal Justice Act came into effect.
A Probe into Youth Crime Trends in Canada
The Youth Criminal Justice Act, adopted by the former Liberal government in 2003 to replace the Young Offenders Act, promotes rehabilitation for young offenders, while reserving aged 12 to 17 years old, while reserving custody for serious crimes. When the new act was adopted, Canada had oneof the highest youth incarceration rates in the world. Interestingly, the number of youths imprisoned dropped to a dramatic 36 percent between 2003 and 2008, according to the latest figures available from Statistics Canada (Tibbetts, 2008, para. 1), but the youth crime rates are still very high in public opinion; many even believe that the rates are increasing as ever. So, how can we tell thatyouth crime rates increased or decreased since the adoption of the act? The answer to this question can influence the government and law-makers’ decision on whether or not to denounce the laws that advocate rehabilitation and prevention for young offenders.
Definition and historical viewpoint
In Canada young person between the ages of 12 and 17 who break the law are charged with the same offencesas adults. There is no offence known as youth crime, the determination that an accused is a young offender is based on the age of the offender at the time the offence was committed. The terms “Youth” or “adolescence” were generally not in use until the end of 18th century and there was no problem like youth crime. Children were considered as same as adults only smaller, in terms of law, whichmeans that they took on adult’s responsibility and received equal treatment, but in the 18th century people started to realize that children take a long time to become adults, and also believed that adolescence is a transitional stage to adulthood.
Like cities in Europe, Canadian cities also started experiencing industrialization and problems of youth crime with unemployed young males fulfillingtheir economic needs by committing crimes during this time. The only difference was there that initially, the problem did not appear as severe in Canada as it was in more industrialized countries of Europe. It only became significant issue later as Canada became a dumping ground for the orphans and street youths of Britain cities, starting in the 1860s and continuing until the 1920s. From 75,000 to90,000 children are thought to be exported to Canada in this period. Ever since then, youth crime became a permanent topic for media, politicians and general public. The question of whether to use tougher treatment or to use an approach of prevention and rehabilitation still continues.
Youth crime trends: public perception vs. official reports
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