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YOUTH VIOLENCE: A Brief Summary Of What, How Many and Why

Steffanie Petroni-Date for local2 sault ste. marie
October 18th, 2012 at 11:02am

A Brief Summary Of What, How Many, Why And Preventing Violent Crime Perpetrated By Our Young People


Over the past decade, youth crime has been on the decline. However, the rate of violent crime committed by youth is on the rise. The definition of youth varies with each source and will be clarified throughout the body of this report. Violent offences include: homicide; attempted murder; robbery; sexual assault; other sexual assault; major assault; common assault; uttering threats; criminal harassment; and other violent offences. Globally, Canada ranks 28th out of 70 countries for the country with the most homicides committed by youth (15- 24 yrs.).

According to the World Health Organization, homicide perpetrated by youth is escalating with credit attributed to the increase in numbers of attacks involving firearms. Attacks not involving firearms such as fists, feet, knives and clubs result in fewer incidents of death. Fact Sheets - Click Here

In 2010, homicide rates across the country totaled 554 and 189 of those murders occurred in Ontario. The definition of youth varies from source to source though it is commonly accepted in Canada that individuals 29 yrs. or younger fall within that classification.

The table below indicates the number of persons accused of homicide as organized by age and gender.


The above crime statistics report all incidents reported to the police regardless of charges laid or outcome. However, the Youth Court Statistics Canada 2010/2011 report focuses on actual cases representative of charges and results. In 2010/2011 Youth Court Statistics recorded 14,084 violent offences committed by youth. (http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11645-eng.htm)

Youth by this definition ranges from 12 – 17 yrs. only.

Violent offences charged and convicted in a court included: homicide- 44 convictions; attempted murder- 24 convictions; robbery- 2, 562 convictions; sexual assault- 953 convictions; other sexual assault- 336 convictions; major assault- 3, 310 convictions; common assault- 4, 183 convictions; uttering threats- 2,135 convictions; criminal harassment- 196 convictions; and other violent offences- 341 convictions.

In Canada a separate justice system exists for youth 12 – 17 yrs. and adults 18 yrs. and older. Upon reviewing national statistics youth and young adults who are charged with the offence of violating the Criminal Code have decreased. The criminal justice system opted to deal with offences through the use of warnings, cautions and referrals to community programs.

In Sault Ste. Marie homicide is a rare occurrence: in 2003- 1 homicide; in 2004 – 1 homicide; 2005 -0 homicide; 2006 – 2 homicide; 2007 – 0 homicide; 2008 – 0 homicide; 2009 – 2 homicides; 2010- 1 homicide; and 2011 – 4 homicides.

Society often views the occurrence of crime as a policing issue. However, workshops and campaigns designed to serve the professional development of sectors inclusive of law enforcement, social, health, educational and of families have encouraged an understanding that the rates of criminal offence among youth are a societal concern and responsibility. Enforcement is the last line of defense when every other institution has fallen short of supporting youth at risk to commit violent crime.

The World Health Organization identified 3 significant factors influencing the development of violent behaviour among youth.

Individual Factors:

Poor behavioural control
Attention problems
History of early aggressive behaviour
Low educational achievement

Influences by Family and Peers:

Poor supervision of children by parents and harsh physical punishment to discipline children
Parental conflict in early childhood
A low level of attachment between parents and children
A mother who had her first child at an early age
Experiencing parental separation or divorce at a young age
A low level of family cohesion
Low socioeconomic status of the family

Social, Political and Cultural Factors:

Gangs and a local supply of guns and drugs are a potent mixture, increasing the likelihood of youth violence
Low levels of social cohesion within a community have been linked to higher rates of youth violence
The quality of a country’s governance – its laws and the extent to which they are enforced, as well as policies for social protection – has an important effect on violence
Factors such as income inequality, rapid demographic changes in the youth population, and urbanization have all been positively linked with youth violence
Cultures that do not provide non-violent alternatives for resolving conflicts appear to have higher rates of youth violence

Intervention and prevention strategies have been undertaken to nip the problem of youth violence in the bud. Interventions seeking to change an individual’s skills, attitudes and beliefs have been implemented in the school setting and focus on conflict resolution and anger management.

Prevention strategies also include early intervention strategies that focus on providing parents with information about early childhood development, effective discipline and improving communication. These techniques have been touted as the most promising remedies curing violence perpetuated by youth.

Other approaches focus on community settings and societal factors related to youth violence. This can range from public information campaigns to community policing in the schools. These approaches also include judicial, legislative and educational reforms designed to deal with social change and gun violence among youths.

Most of these approaches have not been evaluated.

While the stats are compelling, stock approaches to reducing violent crime among youth hardly leave one with a sense of hope. But for a few exceptions, these strategies seem to offer a shiny veneer intended to distract the masses from any real accountability that is personal, elected or privileged. And these glossy appeasements hardly conceal the dents in the rapidly eroding façade of public civility.

Reversing generations of strife that has inspired a culture of violence among youth requires a major overhaul of a myriad of social, economic, health, educational and political systems. The ability to nurture up young folk that are healthy and contributing members of society, flourishes when solutions are developed at the grassroots level.


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