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American Juvenile Justice$
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Franklin E. Zimring

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181166

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181166.001.0001

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Kids, Groups, and Crime

Kids, Groups, and Crime

Some Implications of a Well-Known Secret

Chapter:
(p.73) Six Kids, Groups, and Crime
Source:
American Juvenile Justice
Author(s):

Franklin E. Zimring

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181166.003.0024

This chapter is about youth crime and sentencing policy. The “well-known secret” is this: adolescents commit crimes, as they live their lives, in groups. While the empirical evidence for this hypothesis is at least seventy years old, the consequences of this simple and important finding are frequently ignored when we measure crime, pass laws, and postulate theories of criminal activity. The problems associated with ignoring the obvious have grown more serious in recent years, as the study of criminal behavior has shifted from its sociological origins into a wide spectrum of social, behavioral, economic, and policy science disciplinary subspecialties. The chapter is organized into two parts. The first section discusses some evidence on adolescent crime as group behavior that emerged from the pioneering studies of the Chicago School in the 1920s, and supplements this information with more recent crime-specific estimates of group criminality. The second section catalogues some of the things we do not know as a consequence of ignoring the obvious. Ignoring the well-known fact of group involvement causes us to overestimate the amount of crime kids commit, to generate inaccurate models of deterrence and incapacitation, and to overlook the special character of adolescent motives and vulnerabilities in group settings.

Keywords:   youth crime, sentencing policy, adolescents, adolescent crime, group behavior

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