The Prevention of Delinquent Behaviour
It is useful for the purpose of pursuing a practical policy to make a somewhat artificial distinction between opportunistic and persistent delinquent behaviour. The largest group of juvenile delinquents consists of opportunistic offenders: they commit essentially offences with a high nuisance value, such as vandalism, shoplifting, petty theft and fighting. This type of behaviour is heavily dependent on a ‘good opportunity’ and characterizes young people aged 14–18. Once the responsibilities of adulthood appear such behaviour is quickly abandoned. Prevention policies that reduce opportunities to commit crime through environmental design, technical measures and greater supervision and control have been shown to be effective in this respect. Together with more formal interventions, such as diversion, mediation and alternative sanctions, this appears to be an effective response to such crime. In general, we need not to be too much concerned about these youthful groups of impulse offenders, because most of them – with a little help of the community and the authorities – will not persist in criminal behaviour.