Youth Justice, Crime, and Policing

ANZPAA’s Rhiannon Van Vliet recently sat down with Dr Suz Rock, lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University to discuss youth crime, justice and policing. 

Suz highlights the unique and complex environment that surrounds youth justice, and how police can work to improve their response to youth crime. She notes that “the police have a difficult job of trying to get that balance with community safety concerns within the remit of the legislation that they are bound by and making sure best practice is carried out with young people too.”

One aspect that Suz discusses in understanding the landscape around youth crime, is the compounding factors that can affect young people and how this intersects with their experience of crime and offending. This can include intergenerational trauma, early contact with the justice system, low socio-economic backgrounds and access to education. 

Addressing youth justice needs to be a broader, holistic and a whole of community effort. Suz says that “there is systematic change that needs to happen, and it’s something police don’t necessarily have control over”.

To improve policing’s response to youth crime, Suz discusses how partnerships with agencies external to policing are integral to effectively engage with young people. Alongside this, police need to build trust within the community and have positive interactions with young people to try and stop the cycle of offending. “We know that the trust built up between officers and young people can increase their likelihood to report offences, and it can increase their likelihood to engage with the police in a positive way”.

While Suz believes the types of offending will not change too drastically in the future, our approach to policing youth crime and youth justice overall may shift depending on public sentiment. She says “we tend to see patterns in our approach to youth justice… historically young offender legislation has looked at things from more of a social welfare perspective…not a justice issue.” The big question around youth crime, is not how the crime type evolves, but how will the response by police shift in the next five to ten years’?

Listen to the full discussion on Spotify.

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