London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

British young people’s understanding of crime and violence in the local context: Reality or myth?

Author(s) Minty, S., Hollingworth, S., Allen, K. & Holden, C.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2010  
Editor P. Cunningham & N. Fretwell, Lifelong Learning and Active Citizenship  
Age group -  
This paper explores British young people’s specific concerns about local violence and crime in two locations: London and Devon. The findings come from the ECRP Future Citizens project which explored young people’s hopes and fears for the future and their understanding of social and global issues. We discuss the concerns raised by British young people in both their quantitative and qualitative responses to the survey and in the focus group discussions. Echoing research with British adults, fears relating to local violence and crime predominated the British young people’s responses. We explore their experiences and understanding of violence and crime, which in Devon tended to relate to petty crime and graffiti, while in London, it related very specifically to gun and knife crime. We go on to suggest some of the contributing factors to young people’s overwhelming concerns about crime and violence. The media plays an important role in influencing and shaping young people’s narratives, as does their real life experiences and their parents’ perceptions. While crime rates continue to fall, the perception remains that crime and violence are increasing. We situate this concern for knife and gun crime in relation to media reports common at the time of the research, highlighting the ‘epidemic’ of knife crime among teenagers in London, and argue that media plays a key role in influencing and shaping these narratives. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings for policy makers and teachers.

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