Public Opinion and youth crime

Public Opinion and youth crime - Public Opinion and Youth...

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Public Opinion and Youth Crime The government has had to deal for some time with the paradox of overall crime rates in England and Wales being stable or falling since the early 1990’s, but with opinion polls consistently showing that the public believe rates to be on the increase, particularly amongst young people. It is also the case that public interest in crime is high and at the same time levels of knowledge are low. Respondents to opinion polls often acknowledge this, but this does not seem to prevent them from holding opinions about a range of criminal justice issues. For example, in the USA in 2005, the trial of the singer Michael Jackson for child abuse attracted huge public interest and in one poll, 67% admitted to having a strong opinion about the singer’s innocence or guilt whilst having no knowledge whatsoever of relevant trial evidence. Moreover, opinion was divided along racial lines, some 59% of white respondents believing him to be guilty and some 52% of black respondents believing the opposite (Roberts, Hough 2005, p. 7). A Mori poll of 2003 asked how much respondents knew of the work of criminal justice agencies (cited in Roberts, Hough 2005, p. 8): How much do you know about the work of the following agencies? A great deal Not much Nothing Police 74% 19% 7% Probation 23% 40% 37% Youth Courts 18% 38% 45% YOT’s 13% 28% 59% With the exception of the police, it is clear that public knowledge of criminal justice agencies is low, but that does not prevent people having views on the importance of various functions that they feel the system to have. The same poll revealed that the following percentage of respondents considered the following to be ‘absolutely essential’ functions of the criminal justice system: Treating all people fairly 72% Creating a safe society 69% Bringing offenders to justice 68% Dealing with sex offenders 68% Dealing with violent crime 67% Reducing re-offending 60% Public perceptions of crime rates 1
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As mentioned, there is a persistent mismatch between public perceptions of crime rates and reality. It would appear that the root cause of such views is the media, which is overwhelmingly the main source of information about crime. It would appear that the media tends to generally sensationalise crime and to present the unusual as commonplace. This tendency applies to other areas of public policy such as unemployment and the media do appear to have a general negative influence in a range of areas (Roberts, Hough 2005, p. 11). This influence seems to have a further impact on public perceptions,
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Public Opinion and youth crime - Public Opinion and Youth...

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