Crime, Riots and Delinquency

According to the formal definition , any action that is legally prohibited by the law can constitute a crime. At present, crime has become an integral part of our lives in the sense that we are all so much used to it simply because we hear or face crime every other day. In a society that we live in today the mass media has so much influence and sway that it is not a big deal when we wake up in the morning get a hold of a newspaper and read about some brutal murder the story of which is intentionally put in the paper for the sole reason of getting the reader’s attention. Then later in the day we might as well turn on the television and see the official footage where the police apprehend a serial killer who has murdered 15 people up to that point in different areas across the country. And finally in the evening we find some time to relax and watch a movie with a criminal content, which give a vivid thrilling story of an enraged sadistic murderer who kills innocent people left and right in order to accomplish his sinister and mysterious scheme. This is a typical day that a person spends in today’s world and it cannot but influence his or her social attitudes and perceptions

Juvenile crime and delinquency has become a very vital issue in the society at this point in time. Officially a juvenile crime is any offense committed by children or adolescents under the age of 18 years. These crimes are legally referred to as delinquency and would be considered serious offenses, if they were they committed by adults. There are also minor transgressions that are termed status offenses. Those include some minor misconduct such as acts of social disobedience. Status offenses are not usually punished by serving term in prison and delinquency offenses along with the status crimes are all handled by the Juvenile court. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2001) Nevertheless, there are more serious offenses such as murders, rapes committed by minors and those can also be brought to the criminal court and involve more serious punishment. There was a social debate that caused a great deal of controversy concerning the age that children can be actually held accountable for their personal actions.

What happens during a riot: the rioters do not represent the majority of community members As mentioned above, MPs and the general public in Canada have concluded that there were only two ways to cope with the riots: severely punish the looters or help these communities cope better with their social problems. However an understanding of what actually happens during a riot and looting helps avoid such over simplistic responding. In a recent paper aptly called “Burn, Baby, Burn”, Jonathan Bean (2000) points out that looters in the United States (US) riots of the 1960s and 1970s constituted only a small minority of those living in the community and were definitely not those community members who dedicated their time to improving their communities through enlightened and peaceful means. Surveys taken after several riots have shown clearly that most community members did not approve of the rioting and looting. They believed the looters were acting out of pure self interest. Moreover the rioters and looters were actually making it more difficult for those who were trying to improve the lot of their community through peaceful, legal, and orderly means.

The minority status of the rioters raises the important question of why there is this sub group of unreflecting, short-sighted, and asocial individuals. What factors lead to these individuals developing such distorted sense of values and acting in such maladaptive ways? The answer to this question is complex but the important point is that the solution to such riots and looting is not to just punish the subgroup. In fact this will not help even change the behaviour of this subgroup and does nothing to help those in the disadvantaged communities and prevent similar disturbances in the future.