The law must step in where parents have failed
One night recently on a suburban Melbourne train, several young teenagers—some reportedly as young as 13 or 14 years of age—terrorised a carriage full of innocent passengers who were returning from a day out at the football.
Purportedly this bunch of pimple-faced brats pelted rocks at the windows of the train and threatened the frightened passengers, including elderly people and young children.
Meanwhile, on another suburban train, a young woman was smashed over the head with a bottle in an unprovoked attack by a group of hostile teenage girls, resulting in several stitches to her head. What is wrong with these kids? And why should innocent people have to put up with this?
While in a perfect world we could rely on all parents to be great role models who help set their kids up for healthy, happy lives as contributing and considerate members of society, the reality is a little different.
Unfortunately, when you are talking about kids like our latest bunch of nasty little train thugs, it’s way too late to get their parents to teach them the rules of life, so something else has to be done.
That something, I believe, is to introduce laws that have bigger teeth and provide additional police and community resources to handle the burgeoning number of offenders.
Currently we seem to be taking the ‘softly softly’ approach with young offenders. Slap on the wrist, here. Naughty boy or girl, there. Counselling. Rehab. Half-hearted community service.
But while this loving approach may work for those who are keen to make amends and get on with their lives – it is clearly not working as a deterrent to prevent other kids from becoming involved in dangerous and antisocial behaviour in the first place.
In fact, it currently seems there is a ‘no fear/no care’ attitude amongst many offenders. Not only do they show little regard for their communities, but they also have absolutely no respect for the police – swearing, throw missiles and even assaulting them in some cases.
Perhaps most alarming, they also seem unconcerned about the potential consequences of their actions; surely suggesting the consequences must not be severe enough.
While I would never advocate for a system where young people are abused, neglected or left to rot in jail, we simply must find ways to make breaking the law a very unattractive option.
When young people turn to crime, we need harsher sentencing as a deterrent to others. We need to send a very strong message to all would-be offenders that ‘if you do the crime, you do the time—and it ain’t gonna to be fun.’
We need well-run correctional facilities—with positive learning opportunities—but with limited (and earned) ‘fun privileges’ so those inside have nothing to gloat about to their mates on the outside. (And let’s completely ban access by inmates to violent movies and digital games while we’re at it. Surely that’s not rocket science is it?)
But of course, this is only part of the answer. To help young offenders really turn their lives around and to keep the rest of the kids on the right side of the tracks, we need a multi-faceted approach that involves police, the courts, correctional centres, health and wellbeing professionals, communities, families and, of course, the kids themselves.
We need parents to be more accountable for raising kids who know and respect the ‘rules’ of community life. We need more police powers to detain young offenders when they do step over the line and resources to address disrespectful behaviours before they escalate into criminal acts.
We need more quality programs that enable young offenders to make positive contributions and links within their communities. We need more positive mentors for kids who are at risk of going off the rails and we need communities that include, protect and provide for their youngest citizens.
And if these things (or similar) don’t happen soon? Well perhaps we should all just avoid public places. Or pimply teenagers with bad attitudes. Or both.
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