Almost All Children Aged 10-15 Are Victims Of Crime
Being a victim of crime is now the norm for most children in Britain, according to research that reveals that 95% of 10- to 15-year-olds in the country have experienced crime at least once.
A survey by the Howard League for Penal Reform of more than 3,000 children found that almost three-quarters had been assaulted over the previous year, and that two-thirds had been victims of theft. More than half the children had seen their property deliberately damaged, while others reported threats or verbal abuse.
The study, entitled Children as victims: child-sized crimes in a child-sized world, found the majority of incidents occurred in schools and playgrounds, with much of the rest being between school and home. But children were unlikely to report incidents to police or teachers because they felt those adults would not be interested.
The wave of mainly low-level, child-on-child crime revealed by the research suggests that government figures might have significantly underestimated the level of crime experienced by young people. According to the 2003 Home Office Crime and Justice Survey only 35% of children aged 10-15 years had experienced at least one crime in the previous year.
The League also found that children feared crime, and felt vulnerable and scared. They wanted safe places for play, and even work opportunities, at an earlier age, to help relieve boredom. They also wanted to see a change in adults’ attitudes, as they felt demonised as perpetrators rather than seen as victims.
Another study published today, by Victim Support, shows how the line between victimhood and offending is often blurred, with youngsters hit by crime sometimes turning to violence in defence. According to the League study, which ran from 2000 to 2006, 72% of children were hit or kicked during the previous year, and more than half threatened with violence. Almost a fifth had had something stolen outside school, 11% had been robbed of money, and almost one in 10 of a mobile phone.
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, said: “Children are rarely consulted about the impact of crime on their lives. If they were adults would discover that children are frequently the victims of crime perpetrated by other young people … these crimes are often not reported, as children think adults will not listen to them or that the crime will be viewed as too small to bother with.”
She added: “To children however, in a child-sized world, these crimes … do matter. Ironically, the very institutions where children should feel safest – their school environments set up and patrolled by adults – are where children are most commonly victimised.” The incidents had to be kept in context, with bullying or racist name-calling being partly down to “children behaving as children”. But she warned: “The danger is that adults become concerned only when incidents become more serious, or break out from being child-on-child to child-on-adult.”
The League wants to see more conflict resolution in schools, including perhaps restorative justice, with aggressors making amends to victims. Victim Support wants support for victims and offenders, as many children fall into both categories.