Why Young People Commit Crime By Jennifer Onaburekhalen
In our society (Nigeria), the rate of crime increases with every season and any given circumstance. Most recently, with the increase in the number of persons testing positive to the Corona Virus and the earlier restrictions and stay at home orders, the rate of crime increased including burglary by minors.
When a minor comes in conflict with the law, he or she is considered to be a juvenile delinquent. In determining the age of criminal responsibility in Nigeria, different legislations categorise individuals into four categories: an infant; a child; a young person; and an adult. The Criminal and Penal Codes defined a child on the basis of criminal responsibility to mean that a person younger than the age of seven (infant) is considered not criminally liable for an offence committed and presumed incapable of committing an offence. In addition, a male child under the age of twelve is considered incapable of having carnal knowledge. A person between the ages of seven and twelve years (child) will not be normally held responsible for his/her offence unless it can be proved that as at the time of committing the offence, he/she had the capacity to know that what he or she was doing was wrong. The Children and Young Persons Act defined a young person to mean a person between the ages of 14 to 17 years of age. The Child Rights Act defined a child to be a person below the age of eighteen (18) years. This leaves persons 18 and above to be considered adults and criminally responsible for their offences except proved otherwise in some circumstances. In the same vein, the Sharia Law however determines criminal responsibility by either puberty or attainment of the age of eighteen (18).
It is important to note that a child is not born with any criminal tendency. A lot of factors contribute to the criminal behaviours of young persons which often lead them to do dangerous things and commit various offences. Some of the crimes prevalent among young persons include: theft, burglary, fraud, robbery and even grave felony like murder which attracts capital punishment.
Early intervention is required to cub young persons from indulging in criminal activities, this is because as part of its lasting effects, a young person who indulges in crime at an early age has the tendency to continue in crime into adulthood and even for a very long time. In order to carry out a positive intervention and prevent young persons from indulging in criminal activities and to secure a crime free future, it is important first to outline few of the factors that influences children and young persons to indulge in criminal activities and come in conflict with the law.
The major contributing factors to young persons’ engagement in criminal activities can be complex and they include: peer pressure, parenting factor, substance abuse, poor financial standing, unemployment, community influence, poverty, no education, poor supervision, etc.
As children grow into teens and young adults, the need to become socially recognized by their peers increases. Peers have both negative and positive influences on their counterparts. Teens and young adults are pressured into activities and certain behaviours based on the kind of peers they admire and wish to become. Teens and young adults are most often than not, pressured into acting in some certain ways in order to be accepted by their mates and fit into their company and such activities could be criminal. It is therefore important for young persons to choose wisely the peers they admire and to run away from the company of those who influence them to commit crimes.
The importance of good parenting and the role it plays in the life and upbringing of children can never be over emphasized. One parenting factor which can influence a child negatively is poor parental control and supervision of children; most parents due to lack of time, or wish not to subject a child to pains of punishment for wrong behaviours, neglect to appropriately instruct the child on both morally and socially accepted behaviours. Such a child grows to become whoever he chooses and, in most cases exhibit criminal behaviours. Another parental factor responsible for criminal behaviour is separation of parents. Some children who are products of broken homes become violent and tends towards criminal behaviours. Some of these also include children who feel unloved by their parents or family members, they tend to fill the void by being violent and exhibiting criminal behaviours. A third parental factor is parental criminality. Children of parents who are involved in crime, tend to exhibit same criminal characters as their parent, some of them feel it is a natural thing to involve in crime as it is a part of their upbringing. They therefore exhibit such behaviours into adulthood. It is important for parents to groom their children properly in the right direction so as they can grow to become responsible adults and members of the society.
Persons who abuse drugs, alcohol and other substances are prone to coming in conflict with the law. This is as a result of the fact that most substance abusers are under the direct influence of such substances and are sometimes incapable of refraining from committing crimes. Some persons take substances as a confidence booster to commit offences. It is important for young persons to refrain from using and abusing unprescribed drugs and substances to prevent being influenced to commit crimes.
Poor Financial Standing:
Many children and young persons are in the habit of comparing themselves with their peers. In the process of comparison, they admire some of the things they cannot afford which their peers have. Some children who are poorly supervised or with low moral upbringing are prone to committing crimes like stealing in other to get the things they want. Such children when not corrected early can grow to become professionals in stealing, burglary and even armed robbery. It is important for parents to teach their children the value of contentment and the satisfaction it brings.
Many young adults who have remained unemployed after school feel depressed and frustrated when they are not able to meet up with financial obligations expected of them. In other to fulfil their needs and that of their dependants, some of them turn towards crime. It is important for unemployed youths to be patient in getting a job rather than turn towards crime to fulfil their needs.
As important as good parental upbringing is, the community in which a child is nurtured have significant influence in the life of the child. Some communities with clustered houses, too many people living in the same house and compound, ill maintained environment, poor community supervision, lack of functional community leaders tend to produce more criminally minded people than communities with less of such characteristics. Some other communities create opportunities for crime. Such communities have little or no policing plans, have more bullies and even members of secret cult groups. Children who grow in such communities have higher tendencies to commit crimes that children from other communities without those characteristics. It is important for parent to provide a good environment for their children to grow in.
Poor or No Education:
Education is a very important aspect of a child’s life, be it formal or informal. In schools most of the socially accepted behaviours as well as the consequences of doing otherwise are taught. Children who are not properly trained form their own opinion on what is socially acceptable or not and most often are prone to indulge in criminal activities. It is important that every community and household understand the importance of educating their children/wards and be committed to ensuring that the right values are taught.
Children grow under the supervision of adults and are very quick to copy behaviours and patterns. Apart from parents, other adults are placed in the lives of children to supervise their activities. This could be in schools, places of worship or at home. A poorly supervised child in school, places of worship and at home can skip classes, skip home works, engage in teen gangs, teen sex, engage in substance abuse, become a bully, etc. without being caught or noticed by the adults who are directly in charge of supervising them. Such behaviours at early stages can lead to the commission of more serious crimes as young persons and adults. It is important that those who have lawful responsibilities to bring up children should do so with utmost care and caution.
Having identified some of the factors responsible for juvenile delinquency, it is ideal that personal and collective approaches be taken to effectively control some of these causes to prevent more children and young persons from tending towards crime.