Crime Prevention: Community and Development Approaches

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Today in the USA rather a big generation of young people experience transition from childhood to youth. Particularly numerous young people are concentrated in the places which attract young job-seekers. This huge number of young people represents both opportunities and challenges for the country. At the same time most part of these people feel marginalized as they are not involved into decision-making activity. Of the many problems facing the youth in the USA, unemployment is the most important. 61 percent of young Americans are unemployed today. Another burning problem associated with the youth is negative effect of drugs and crime. According to the statistics more than 50% of violent crimes – rapes, armed carjacking, mugging and home invasions - are performed by the young people aged between 17 to 25 years.

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Crime Prevention: Community and Development Approaches

Today in the USA rather a big generation of young people experience transition from childhood to youth. Particularly numerous young people are concentrated in the places which attract young job-seekers. This huge number of young people represents both opportunities and challenges for the country. At the same time most part of these people feel marginalized as they are not involved into decision-making activity. Of the many problems facing the youth in the USA, unemployment is the most important. 61 percent of young Americans are unemployed today. Another burning problem associated with the youth is negative effect of drugs and crime. According to the statistics more than 50% of violent crimes – rapes, armed carjacking, mugging and home invasions - are performed by the young people aged between 17 to 25 years.

Government perfectly understands that increasing level of crimes is an impediment to social and economic development of the country. Furthermore this situation poses a problem for development of economy and tourism.

Being motivated to understand what approaches can be used to combat this situation we have devoted this work to identify the efficiency of community approach to crime prevention taking as a community such American country as Stockton. During working over this paper we have identified the most acute challenges to crime prevention in this country. Furthermore, the most efficient strategies to address these challenges have also been identified. In future these challenges can be used to create a more effective, contextually sensitized and sustainable framework for solving problems connected with juvenile crime in the United States.

Despite several attempts to address this burning issue taken by the city administration, still there is a lack of coordination, communication and information exchange between potential crime prevention combaters in Stockton. This implies that interventions have always been made without caring of the history and results of the previous interventions in this field. This is why in order for these interventions to have a long-term effect in the country, a more coordinated, integrated and holistic approach should be utilized. To make this possible a more careful attention should be paid to a participatory strategy of crime prevention which would actively engage all the people participating in the process of arranging collaborative partnerships addressing the problem. An important role here belongs to communication process, specifically to participatory communication processes as they facilitate mobilizing and collaboration of all the actors.

Furthermore, in the research a particular attention is paid to male youth as the key actors of these processes and to the opportunity to be actively engaged into the numerous youth self-assisting groups available in Stockton’s informal organizations dealing with crime prevention activity. In most cases these groups consist of young males which are very likely to be involved into the criminal activity or have already been involved into crimes to a certain extent.

In order to reduce the risk of young people being involved into the criminal lifestyle it is necessary to engage them into some meaningful activity, which involves decision-making, for example, education or employment. In this case, the community as a whole will benefit through the community-based activities. 

As a research site, Stockton, the city situated 40 miles east of Oakland and San Francisco was chosen to evaluate to which extent these groups could become potential partners and assistance in crime preventing activity. Because of a very high level of concentration of self-assistance youth groups in Stockton can be considered an ideal community for the research purpose mentioned. In addition Stockton has a reputation of an area having the highest level of criminal event and violence. In order to better understand the crime-related situation in this community we have studied the numerous interviews with members of self-help youth groups and their leaders as well as with other key people, bodies and organizations such as those working with youth and local area chief.

Why we have focused on youth self-help groups as the potential partners in crime prevention activity? The reason is that these groups consist of people living in the community where the group is based and where criminal activity occurs. And additionally, as we have already mentioned, these groups are comprised of predominantly young people who are most likely can be involved into crimes or become victims of the criminal actions.

Based on this fact the research question has been formed:

How can we use participatory communication and community-based crime prevention in improving of crime prevention situation for young people in Stockton’s informal groups? Bearing this in mind, what strategies can be developed to arrange and facilitate collaboration of the stakeholders in crime preventing activities in Stockton?

The following sub-questions have also arisen:

  • Does the Stockton City Council has sufficient potential and powers to arrange and maintain meaningful cooperation with civil society in preventing criminal activity in informal youth groups \ settlements.
  • What is the opinion of young people in Stockton about themselves, their position and role in relation to violence, crimes and their roots?
  • What is the extent of involving of youth self-help groups into the crime prevention activities as potential partners?

Studying these questions this work aims to understand how to improve the situation with crime prevention in the USA.

Based on the previous criminological researches of such specialists in crime prevention field as Mike Brogden, Eric Pelser, Ingrid Palmary, PatO’Malley and Steven Hutchinson (Brogden 2004, Pelser 2002, Palmary 2002, O’Malley & Hutchinson 2007), we can make a conclusion that neither country’s government nor community’s administration alone can achieve any significant success in crime prevention. In order for the interventions to be efficient, it is necessary to take further measures to establish and strengthen the partnership and collaboration between local administration, country’s government, community self-help youth groups and civil society. At that, this partnership should be based upon mutual understanding and trust. This work aims to study the foundations for these potential partnerships and collaboration of the entities listed above trying to find out what circumstances are the most favorable and decisive for potential crime-combaters. 

The three main topics of concern of this work are crime prevention, communication and youth. These topics are obviously interconnected and only their combination gives opportunity to examine the efficiency of the community approach in crime prevention.

It should be noted that this work is actually the literature review as it is very important to use the experience of the previous theoretical and practical works if you intend to attempt to develop the efficient strategy of crime prevention in a separate community. Due to this fact a considerable portion of this work is determined to analysis of scientific works in the field of crime prevention approaches. This part of the work explores the main challenges and benefits in the process of participatory communication to evaluate how these processes can be used most efficiently to reduce criminal activity level in urban slums of the USA. Empirically the work addresses the situation of the existing collaboration between the Stockton City Council (SCC), the young people in Stockton and the local administration as this will be important later when developing the strategy for improving of this participation and collaboration.

The work also reviews existing researches and literature devoted to the life of young people in the USA in general and Stockton, in particular and discusses what can be understood as a crisis of youth in America as well as different opinions of what being a young person in societies experiencing crucial socio-economic and political changes, means. Empirically the work gives a critical estimate of how the youth in Stockton perceives its life and opportunities, and forecasts the future.

As mentioned in the introduction the key concern of this work has been the assessment of collaborative and participatory approaches to crime prevention for young people in the informal settlements of Stockton.

The epistemological foundations of this work reflects in the worldview of social constructivist, which views everyday experience and scientific knowledge as social constructions, thus understanding humans as constructed by historic and social factors. (Fuglsang &Bitsch Olsen, 2004). In this meaning our knowledge will never directly reflect reality, but will always interpret it and therefore, knowledge will never be certain, permanent and definite but will be influenced by the cultural and social context where it originates from (Fuglsang & Bitsch Olsen 2004).

After studying the relevant literature on such slums in the USA as Stockton, I have chosen the area of Stockton as a sample community whose crime prevention experience can be analyzes for the estimation of efficiency of the community approach to crime prevention.

To understand the dynamics of the community, it is necessary to keep in mind the current situation in Stockton related to the criminal activity level. National statistics gives the following data:

Stockton’s population is 292,047, where young people make up 46%.

Violent Crime Per 1,000: 13.8.

In 2010 the number of murders was 49.

Median Income: $45,730 (8.9% below national average)

Unemployment Rate: 18.4% (9.4% above national average)

Experts think that the huge volume of unemployment in the city greatly contributes to the horrible crime level. According to Forbes in 2010 Stockton took the first position in the list of the cities most miserable to live. In this ranking violent crime was the key indicator. Of the 267 cities having populations over 100,000, Stockton takes the 27th-highest position of murders per 1,000 inhabitants and the 12th-most aggravated assaults per 1,000.

Taking into consideration the criminal activity level in Stockton, in 2011 of California Highway Patrol officers were temporarily moved to the city to help the city police department. During several last years Stockton experienced increase in crimes: murders (8.3%), forcible rapes (1.4%), and aggravated assaults (0.7%). It is clear that the key reason of this is the combination of poverty with high cost of living in the city. Recession only worsens the situation.

Stockton is considered to be the area in the USA mostly known for crime and violence. At the same time Stockton has the highest number of youth self-help groups. The figures of unemployment shows that it is almost 10% higher that average in the country and so is the level of criminal activity. Many inhabitants of this district say that they would be happy to perform any kind of job if they would have the opportunity, however they have lost any hope of ever being officially employed. All these factors greatly contribute to the flourishing criminal activity in this community.

The numerous youth self-help groups we have focused upon are located in Stockton registered as community-based entities. These groups can become very useful partners in criminal prevention as they are community-based which means that their members are living in the community and aware of the problems influencing the young people in this very neighborhood.

We have studied research materials containing the interviews with the members of several youth self-help groups, aiming to get an understanding of young males’ experiences and perceptions related to crime and violence, viewing their lifestyle and forecasts for the future. The key factor of my research is that people when asked about the roots of youth crime in the country, usually innumerate such causes as lack or complete absence of up-bringing and education, idleness, unemployment and, of course, poverty. It should be noted that according to the literature sources, most of the male members of youth self-help groups have experience of crime activity.

Of particular interest is the interview with the: local area chief in Stockton. This person occupies the unique and a very influential position in the community, which is characterized by links between the population of the community, its administration, the SCC, local government and country’s government. The local area chief commands the administrative police in the community which make him aware of the problems of the residents in the community. He named the same reasons for crime flourishing in the community as we have listed above. Based on the evidences obtained we can make a conclusion that the positive impact of communication in social change and development and is becoming increasingly recognized. This is also related to the area of crime prevention in which communication currently more and more is viewed as a very useful partner, rather than an additional helping factor in processes of crime prevention. It is clear that traditional cultural practices and the lack of information are the main causes of underdevelopment and here the community as a group of people connected with the same environment, the same problems, the same forecasts for the future and the same dreams act as the key actor in preventing crimes. The fact that communication is an instrument of social changes and correction of human behavior as well as the instrument for promotion a numerous encompassing intervention, turns it into an ideal approach able to cope with the challenge of reducing crime in informal settlements of Nairobi. By providing the affected community the ruling role in the process it provides a voice to the people who were previously unheard, and here this, to a large extent means, providing a voice to the young people most of which feel neglected, marginalized and thrown out of any decision making activities.

By actively engaging the young people as well as the community it gives people the opportunity to get involve into the process, which is of a greater importance for it to work. Additionally, by drawing more attention to culture, social norms, and policies this approach accounts for the fact that the challenge of youth crime is a complicated and complex issue that requires an integrated approach to be addressed efficiently. The fact that the youth is engaged in criminal activity is not only due to the factors of behavior, but is impacted by a huge number of external factors that should also be addressed. Participation is in the core of this process.

In spite of numerous definitions of participation, the concept of dialogue is central in any of them.

We distinguish between two main approaches to participation in development activity: a perspective of the social movement and an institutionalized or project-based perspective. Both of these approaches have the common understanding of participation as the engagement of ordinary people into development activities and processes.

The marginalized groups should be provided time and space to express their concerns, to outline their issues, to articulate the solutions, and to work on these issues and solutions. In addition, participatory communication is extremely action-oriented. According to this, although along with a great importance of reflection on issues, the integrated actions to bring the theoretic solutions to life will become the main brick of the community approach if crime prevention..







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