Early interventions with young offenders (or with those deemed to be at risk of offending) are one of the preferred methods of controlling crime by Left Realists.
Early interventions involve taking a multi-agency approach to give extra support and guidance to young offenders (or prospective offenders) involving the police, social services, education, employment and health services working together to offer young people extra support and guidance to ‘steer’ them away from crime.
The UK government has been funding several early intervention programmes for several years now and this recent parliament briefing from 2019 summarises some of the evidence of how successful some of these programmes have been in reducing violent crime.
Before getting into the evidence on solutions the report defines what it means by violent crime (it includes carrying a knife) and then looks at the factors correlated with people turning to crime.
What Type of People are More Likely to Commit Violent Crime?
Here the report cites evidence relating to two major factors:
- Individual Risk factors – such as exposure to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) for example domestic abuse, exclusion from school and poor mental health
- Environmental Risk Factors such as coming from an area of social deprivation and have negative experiences with the police through stop and search, the later of which is especially correlated with being an ethnic minority.
Early Interventions to Prevent Crime
The report distinguishes between individual and environmental interventions. The later are focused on geographical areas
Individual Interventions to Prevent Crime
There are many one to one support services available to young people from a huge range of government and charitable institutions offering the following types of support:
- Mentoring – in which a trustworthy adult guides a young person through the early stages of their life. However evidence of the effectiveness of mentoring to reduce crime is limited. One study of 350 programmes across England found a huge variety in the support structures, and while this can be successful if mentors are well trained in it for the long-term, it can also have negative effects on the mental health of both mentor and mentee.
- Specialist Children’s Services – one example is where child support agencies find extra financial support for young people who have been victims of domestic abuse. One study found that this reduced offending rates from 25% to 7%.
- The Troubled Families Programme – involved assigning a support worker to families whose children were statistically at risk from offending, with the aim of helping children make the most of local community and employment opportunities. The first phase ran with 120 000 families from 2012 to 2105 but an individual evaluation in 2016 found no evidence of this meeting its aims. As a result the second phase ramped up to 400 000 families, and I’ll blog later about how effective this was!
- Mental Health Support – One interesting approach mentioned here is ‘Parent Infant Psychotherapy – helping parents with mental health issues develop a bond with their children can help reduce neglect and thus reduce crime later in life.
Environmental Interventions to Prevent Crime
- Community interventions – Appropriate policing is mentioned here as one approach – such as increasing police visibility in high crime areas to reduce opportunities for crime.
- School Based Interventions such as teaching children social, emotional and communication skills have shown a positive impact in reducing anti social behaviour and substance abuse, such as those offered by ‘Growing Against Violence’ which works in 600 London Schools. However, programmes involving fear tactics have proven less successful.
- The public health approach -More than a decade ago the Scottish Crime Survey identified that more than 70% of crimes involved people being drunk, so the Scottish authorities developed measures to reduce alcohol consumption, and violent crime reduced every year between 2008 to 2018. This was a truly multi agency approach to reducing crime.
Relevance of this report to A-level sociology
This is a terrific update for evaluating Left Realist approaches to crime. The report seems to be balanced and notes mixed results in many of the interventions, though does seem to be generally positive about the positive impact these early interventions have had in reducing crime.
However from a methods point of view it is difficult to know whether crime would have reduced anyway, even without these interventions, and that is one of the main problems with long term interventions – it is difficult to isolate the independent effect they may have had on reducing crime!