About 50% of all crimes are committed by young people. Statistical evidence shows that the older a person is the less likely he/she is likely to commit a crime. Most burglary, street robbery, violence against a person shoplifting and criminal damage is committed by young people aged 17-24. The peak age for known male offenders is 18, compared to 15 for female.
Crime committed by young people is known as Juvenile delinquency. Albert Cohen focused on collective gang crime such as vandalism, hooliganism and territorial violence in the USA. His analysis focused on why working class males were attracted to collective malicious forms of deviant behaviour. He argued that the main cause of this type of deviance was 'Status frustration' caused by working class parents failing to adequately socialise their children into the values and skills required for success in education, secondly, school denying such boys status by putting them in bottom groups. He argued that boys react to their frustration by forming anti-social delinquency, which is carried over into leisure time. Cohen is therefore blaming both working class culture and society- the latter because school fails to give these youngsters what they want, notably status.
Some contemporary studies of territorial violence in the uk which resulted in deaths from gun and knife crime, support the view that gaining status or respect is central to gang identity today. Keith Kintreas study of gang violence in the six uk cities concluded that participation in terrirorial conflict, which often involved carrying weapons and frequent violent confrontation with rivals from other areas produced a hightend sense of masculinity and respect or status from other gang members. In addition, Jonathan Smith concluded a study of personal robbery using police crime that the main motives for robbery were financial advantage and to enhance personal reputation and status.
However labelling theorists such as Howard Becker argue that deviance is a relative concept. The activities of the young are no more deviant than the activities of older people. However older people such as parents teachers and politicians are more powerful than younger people and so make the rules. These rules tend to label the activities of younger people are deviant. Labelling theory argues that the police, who act on behalf of the poewrful label younger people as potentially criminal or suspicious and tend to stop and arrest them more often. This police attention may be the reason why young people appear more in statistics, suggesting that the statistics may tell us more about police behaviour and prejudices than about Juvenile deliquency.
Similarlly, the mass media over focus in young people by creating moral panics around their activities according to sociologists such as Stan Cohen, Jack Young and Sarah Thornton. There activities are more likely to be reported in a sensational, exaggerated and stereotyped fashion, as folk devils, presented as a threat to society. Such as moral panics put pressure on politicians to bring in new laws to control young people which usually further criminalise them. Pressure is also put on the police and courts to crack down on them in terms of arrests and prison sentences. These factors result in more young people being arrested, convicted and showing up in crime statistics.
Left realists, John Lea and Jack Young argue that working class and black Juvenile delinquency is caused by relative deprivation an young working class and black…