Teens and Juvenile Crime
Teens can be helpful and active in their communities, but they can also be the perpetrators or victims of crime. Teens who always follow the lead of peers may be particularly vulnerable to becoming embroiled in criminal activity because they might fall in with the wrong crowd and get talked into committing crimes along with their friends.
Criminal Activity and Teens
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, violent crime arrest rates decreased between 1995 and 2009, and males were found to be more likely to be involved in violent crime than females. Aggressive teens may need professional intervention to prevent them from becoming involved in criminal activity. Other teens may be able to avoid becoming involved in crime simply by choosing their friends and social activities wisely.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Drug issues are closely tied to juvenile crime. When a teen is using drugs or alcohol, it can affect his or her judgment. Teens who are substance abusers are more likely to commit violent crimes, get involved in accidents that involve criminal negligence and become victims of crime.
Drug use and underage drinking are illegal in and of themselves, so even if you don’t do something dangerous or destructive, you might still get into trouble simply for drinking or taking drugs. One way to prevent any legal problems is to steer clear of drugs.
In some communities, gangs are a serious concern. Gangs are typically defined as:
Being involved in criminal activity
Being composed mainly of members between the ages of 12 and 24
Having some form of organization and structure, including having a leadership hierarchy
Sharing a gang name and symbols that all gang members identify with and use
Having three or more members
Gangs are often involved in drug activity, including using and selling illegal drugs. Teens often join a gang because their friends or family members are in the gang or because they believe the gang will offer a form of protection from other local gangs. However, most teens who join a gang are actually at increased risk of becoming involved in violence, so it is much safer to stay away from gangs altogether.
Petty theft is common during the high school years, and some teens may think nothing of swiping small items from work, shoplifting small products from stores or stealing small amounts of money from their family members. Unfortunately, such small crimes may lead to more serious crimes, so they should be halted as soon as possible.
Vandalism may seem like it is a victimless crime, but for the people who own the vandalized building or structure, it can feel like a significant violation. Not only do the owners have to spend time and money cleaning up the vandalized property, but they also must deal with the decision of whether or not to press charges against the teen who did the vandalism. For the teen involved, it can become a legal issue. In some cases, peer pressure can be a big influence in whether a teen gets involved with vandalism.
Acts of crime can affect your entire future. While some juvenile crimes get removed from a teen’s record when he or she reaches adulthood, other crimes stay with you your entire life. The best way to keep your future as bright as possible is to steer clear of criminal activity. Getting involved in healthy activities, such as sports, clubs or volunteer activities, can help you stay out of trouble and safe from crime.