What’s behind the surge in America’s youth crime? — Analysis
Bereft of two crucial authority figures – their fathers and the police, youngsters struggle to find their place
In the United States, violent crimes are on the rise. This disturbing trend is being led by the youngest of our society. It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of this phenomenon due to the country’s political divisions.
Philadelphia is popularly known as the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ but murder statistics tell a different tale. 753 of the 1.5 million-person Pennsylvania school children were killed by classmates in 2020-2021. Police statistics show that through mid-November, 31 fatal shooting victims were under the age of 18 – more than in all of 2020 and triple that number from 2015. At the same time, 30 people under the age of 18 have been arrested for homicides in 2021 – six times the figure of 2019.
It is heartbreaking to watch children fall prey to violent crime. Equally disturbing is the barbarism of their own crimes.
A group of Philadelphia youths beat James Lambert Jr. with a cone and were captured on video in June. Lambert succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. Two 14-year olds were charged by police with conspiring and third-degree killing. A 10-year-old boy reportedly filmed the horrendous murder using his smartphone long after he was asleep.
Carjacking has also become a recreational activity for America’s inner-city youth. Robert J. Contee III, chief of Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, told a press conference in February that many of the individuals carrying out these crimes “are children.”
“The fact that between Prince George’s County [Maryland] and DC we have over 200 young people that committed a carjacking is staggering to me,”He stated.
While America’s metropolitan areas have long been powerful magnets for the criminal-minded, the expectation was that children were somehow protected from joining their ranks. There must be a line drawn in the sand. Today, however that line is no more as young people find themselves in the same leagues with hardened criminals. What went wrong?
One possible way to explain America’s rampant youth crime is by examining the typical family structure in the US. Can it be chalked up to mere coincidence that the country that locks up more of its citizens than any other on the planet also has the highest rates of single-parent families? It’s a correlation worth investigating.
Americans looked for signs that their society was headed for disaster in 1996. The sociologist David Popenoe, reflecting upon the conditions affecting children – eating disorders, depression, teen suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, to name just a few – revealed what he believed to be the primary catalyst behind them.
According to Popenoe, “One of the greatest causes of child mortality is the exclusion of their fathers.” for these trends that are eating away at the country like a malignant cancer.
Popenoe provided an amazing statistic for the 1990s, which is still largely valid today. “Sixty percent of America’s rapists, 72 percent of its adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of its long-term prison inmates come from fatherless homes.”Evidently, this statistic is not significantly different from 1996. This suggests that more is happening than mere coincidence.
Since millennia fathers have been recognized in the home as the leader and disciplinarian. However, studies reveal that children are disciplined more strongly by men than they are by women. While being the father figure in the household, they are crucial role models for their boys. Many children need to find role models for their sons as the nuclear family has been falling apart due to the high number of divorces. This is often happening on the streets with their confused peers. If poverty is included, kids from these broken families are more likely to be complicit in the crime they witness every day. That’s increasingly the reality because the police and the courts lack the means to adequately punish these juveniles.
Although young crime has been increasing since George Floyd died in the face of the police, attitudes to this social phenomena have changed significantly during the civil disorder. In an attempt to placate the angry Black Lives Matter protestors, many US cities began cutting the budgets of their police departments and the police officers at the time they needed them most.
Seattle even allowed Antifa and BLM demonstrators to set up their own police-free area, first known as Capitol Hill Organized PROtest (CHOP) then later the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, (CHAZ). The youth were free to dance and celebrate for a couple of hours. But the party didn’t last long. In fact, the protesters themselves called off the experiment in anarchy as people began to get shot after the sun went down – the youngest victims of shootings connected to CHAZ was just 14 years old. And although a critical lesson had been learned, the notion that major cities can function without police as the ‘defenders of the peace’ had taken root in cities across the nation. As a result, American youth have effectively lost two critical authority figures in their lives –fathers and the police.
There’s another critical point to be made here. Not only did the corporate media serve as apologist for the “mostly peaceful protests,”Hollywood stars eagerly paid prison bail for young criminals, who were accused of attacking both federal buildings and the police. While corporate America offered billions to BLM, and other similar organizations, Democratic leaders refused to join the cause. At the exact same time, cities across America were in flames. If the message wasn’t clear by now that crime pays, it certainly was when a BLM activist told a young crowd in Chicago that looting a store is okay because “That is called reparations. These businesses can take anything they wish because insurance covers them.” All of this sent an unmistakable message to the youth of America that there will be no consequences for their criminal behavior aside from mostly positive ones.
There is no hope for those children who lost their main source of guidance at an early age. The answer is not clear. But without the presence of fathers and other authority figures in their lives, America’s children will be forced to find their way through life blindly. It is clear that the United States’ future rests on its youth.
Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.