Measurement of the Extent of Youth Crime in Scotland
Aims of the study
1.1 The study brief set out the Executive's aspiration to develop an economic cost of youth crime measure to assist in the evaluation of the effectiveness of projects and programmes in this area. The Executive recognised, however, that the initial step in this process was to quantify the overall extent of youth crime, as information on the extent of youth crime was recognised to be partial, ad hoc and fragmented. For the purposes of this study, young people are defined as those 21 years of age and under.
1.2 The overarching aims of the study are:
- to provide a clear understanding of the extent of youth crime in Scotland by providing an accurate picture of the crimes committed by juvenile criminals and the numbers involved; and
- to further research into the fears and perceptions of youth crime.
1.3 A two-stage approach was envisaged, with the specific tasks identified. The output of the first scoping stage of the study was to be a framework that would be utilised in the second stage to provide estimates of youth crime and an overview of the fear of youth crime. The work on Stage 1 was presented in an interim report to the Scottish Executive in August 2003. This is the final report.
- Review and explore all potential sources of information on youth crime and fear of youth crime.
- Resolve definitional issues relating to youth crime and anti-social behaviour.
- Identify ways of measuring perceptions and fears of youth crime.
- Estimate the differences between reported and unreported youth crime.
- Provide estimates of the number of crimes committed by young people and the numbers of juveniles involved, as well as providing an estimate of the number of youths committing crimes across a range of crime categories.
- Provide an overview of the perceptions and fears of youth crime in Scotland. Fears and perceptions should include the following:
1. fear of actual youth crime;
2. insecurities and perceptions of risk of experiencing or becoming a victim of youth crime;
3. fear of low level crime and disorder;
4. fear and perceptions of the implications of anti-social behaviour of youths (e.g. groups on street corners, swearing in streets); and
5. perceptions of the impact of youth crime on the community and how perceptions about the impact can influence the levels of juvenile crime.
- Provide a guide to local youth justice teams on the measures and perceptions of youth crime to allow them to develop and apply the information locally.
Structure of this report
1.4 This report seeks to fulfil the remit set out in the brief by:
- providing contextual overviews of youth crime, anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime;
- estimating the amount of crime committed by young people by crime type, gender and age group using a mixture of data obtained on recorded crime, court proceedings, and SCRA referrals, as well as data from previous research studies;
- providing details on the key indicators of anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime, including discussion on the limitations of existing data sources and of the impacts of both phenomena; and
- providing detailed local authority estimates that can serve as a guide to local youth justice teams are included in Appendix 1.
1.5 Section 2 of the report provides an overview of each of the relevant social phenomena, youth crime, anti-social behaviour and fear of crime. It discusses the problems of definition and other technical issues involved in attempting to measure these phenomena.
1.6 Section 3 briefly summarises all the key data sources and previous research used in producing this report.
1.7 Section 4 provides a series of estimates of the extent of youth crime by crime type, age and gender.
1.8 Section 5 considers the scale of the problem of anti-social behaviour by young people by using a number of indicators obtained from secondary data sources and previous research. It also discusses the limitations of these sources and looks at the possible impacts of this behaviour.
1.9 Section 6 considers the fear of youth crime, again based on a number of indicators from previous research. The impacts of this phenomenon are also discussed.
1.10 Section 7 sets out some broad conclusions about the study findings and the limitations of the data.
1.11 The method employed in Stage 1, described in the interim report, involved a comprehensive review of available literature which might inform our attempts to define and/or measure youth crime, anti-social behaviour, fear of crime and unreported crime.
1.12 We also met a number of individuals in the Scottish Executive and other agencies who are responsible for collecting and analysing data on youth crime and anti-social behaviour:
- Joe Curran, Head of Criminal Research, Criminal Justice Social Research Team, Scottish Executive;
- Sandy Taylor, Criminal Justice Social Research Team, Scottish Executive;
- Katy Barratt, Criminal Justice Social Research Team, Scottish Executive;
- Tom McNamara, Policy Officer, Young People and Looked After Children Division, Scottish Executive;
- Venetia Radmore, Research Manager, Justice Department, Scottish Executive;
- Alan Miller, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children's Reporters Association; and
- Gillian Henderson, Information and Research Manager, Scottish Children's Reporter Administration.
1.13 We enquired about the use of the following data sources:
- police force data;
- Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service data;
- Scottish Children's Reporter Administrator's data;
- Scottish Criminal Records Office data;
- Scottish Prison Service data; and
- Criminal Justice Social Work Statistics.
1.14 After careful consideration of the available data and the views of key personnel, we decided that there was enough information to allow us to estimate levels of youth crime, but that anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime would benefit more from a "key indicators" approach, where we would attempt to analyse perceptions of the prevalence phenomena rather than to provide actual levels of incidents.