WHILE most of their peers are cramming for exams and juggling after-school activities, a growing group of youngsters are turning to the world of crime. Although peer pressure, violent dramas, movies and video games have been blamed for this rise, parents and guardians may play a bigger role than they realise.
Crime statistics recorded 1,632 cases last year involving students below 18, of which 542 cases were crimes involving violence and 1,090 were property crimes. For non-students, 6,184 cases were recorded.
For the first six months of this year, statistics showed 1,240 cases involving students below 18, of which 495 cases were crimes involving violence and 745 were property crimes. For non-students, 5,338 cases have been recorded.
In both years, the highest number arrested were those between 16 and 18.
Violent crimes are offences such as murder, rape, gang robbery without firearms, robbery without firearms, and causing harm. Property crimes involve theft of cars, motorcycles, vans, snatch-thefts and house break-ins.
Suriana Welfare Society for Children chairman James Nayagam
said children would often imitate their parents and this played a huge role in the choices they made later on.
â€œThe home is where it all begins. At home, itâ€™s a matter of close supervision and monitoring what children see and do. Lack of this will result in children picking up unhealthy practices and habits that will direct their thoughts and actions.
â€œAlthough I donâ€™t believe thereâ€™s any particular gender or race thatâ€™s more prone to rage or violence, it gets more significant when they reach puberty, which is around 13.â€
Unfortunately, he said, parents were sometimes clueless when it came to matters of their children.
â€œSome parents are oblivious of their childrenâ€™s actions, or theyâ€™re just not bothered. This could be attributed to many reasons, such as work pressure, marriage break-downs or ignorance.
â€œParents should take heed of warning signs. Teenagers who are involved in violent and other aggressive acts tend to tell lies, stay away from home, have late nights, steal money, or are rebellious. They are also likely to give their parents the cold treatment.
â€œThose who notice these changes in behaviour should seek help. To nip the problem in the bud, parents need to prioritise supervision and monitoring of their childrenâ€™s development from birth.â€
Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy clinical psychologist Dr Charis Geevarughese said social ills involving juveniles had the potential of becoming a dangerous trend if we failed to see the underlying and systemic issues involved in the rise of crime.
â€œWe need to realise that underneath the business, facade, conflicts and crime, people want acceptance. Itâ€™s easy to note the effects of violence in media on the life of a child, but the lack of genuine connection in the childâ€™s primary circle of influence is potentially more harmful.â€
While adults may have deeper, more thought-out or less impulsive reasons for participating in and committing a crime, teenagers are more likely to be involved in crime and gangs that provide a pseudo family and social status that are important at that age.
â€œMales are more likely to be aggresive and violent. Itâ€™s also more common in schools for males to receive attention and reprimand for their perceived negative behaviour, such as being loud, disruptive and defiant.
â€œFemales also display violence but they are less frequently identified, or noticed, and may appear in more subtle and passive forms. Factors such as familial, personality and environment influence each child differently.â€
Charis said there were many factors which could lead a child astray.
â€œChildren and teenagers need attention. Teenagers, in particular, are exploring their identities and testing how to fit into the world of adults. Social connection and acceptance is important.
â€œWhen children and teenagers feel inadequate, isolated, rejected or misunderstood, they make efforts to obtain that acceptance and love. Crime is one way of getting that attention.
â€œCrime is an extreme form of exploration, where most teenagers have learnt that laws are in place for protection and safety; these youngsters have no regard for them. A disregard for these shows high-risk taking and possibly a sense of reckless abandon.â€
She said it was important to understand how and why an adolescent had reached this stage of abandonment and disregard.
â€œHave they lost hope in people, in their own capabilities, or are they apathetic to the harm they cause themselves and others?â€
Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said poor influence and lack of good role models were strong contributors to the rise in crime among youth.
â€œProblematic youngsters are a bad influence on innocent youth. Inadequate parental guidance to educate children on the right path and the negative influence of television programmes, which depict violence and hatred, are all to blame for this worrying upward trend.
â€œThere is insufficient inculcation of noble values to enable our
youth to make right and proper decisions.â€
Lee said with the availability of technology and social media, the ease in which one could commit a crime is also to blame for this upward trend among youth.
â€œSocial media is the easiest and most convenient method to communicate and stay connected.
â€œHowever, such communication also makes one vulnerable. We now have an open sky and a borderless world. Information, positive and negative, is obtained through social media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are popular social media sites.
â€œTheyâ€™re the most used social media platform for Internet users to update their status and details, such as their whereabouts, activities, where they live and their wealth. These information can be used by criminals to identify their potential victims.â€
He said some social media users exposed too much information about themselves, such as car details, information about their family members and family vacation plans.
Broadcasting the fact that there is no one in the house provides opportunities to criminals.
â€œFacebook is one example where criminals can access personal details, such as name, phone number, email address and home address. This data can be used by hackers and cyber criminals to gain access to usersâ€™ bank accounts. This crucial information can also lead to kidnapping,â€ Lee said. – NST Online