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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Is youth crime out of control?
Binge drinking is a significant problem among teenagers, a report has confirmed.

Up to a quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds admitted to having "downed" at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session.

According to the research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the figure rose to half of all 15 and 16-year-olds.

The Foundation is concerned that ten per cent of schoolchildren say they have committed burglary, and a quarter of 15 to 16-year-old boys admitted carrying a weapon.

Almost half of those surveyed said they had broken the law.

Is youth crime out of control? What needs to be done?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

If our culture encouraged us to be citizens rather than consumers then these kinds of issues wouldn't arise with such dreary frequency

Alexis, Wales
If our culture encouraged us to be citizens rather than consumers then these kinds of issues wouldn't arise with such dreary frequency. Responsibility for one's actions within a society framework is something that can be taught and integrated into behavioural norms.
Alexis, Wales

Let's look at a role model of justice in this country. How can you expect kids to respect the law when they see corruption in high places! Of course kids are out of control-they have no infrastructure in which to work - everything is ok as long as you don't get caught! The fault lies with weak government who listen but do not act - leaving our streets a haven for muggers etc.
Adrian, UK

I'm not surprised at the way some kids are today. Go to any shopping centre and you'll see kids causing trouble, while the parents watch, or just can't be bothered.
Keith Jones, UK

Yes and why? Because they are not scared and let's face it, they have nothing to be scared of. Here in Australia, a guy was charged by police for speeding whilst driving his wife to hospital and yet youths who repeatedly steal and wreck cars get a slap on the wrist. Arab countries have it right - whip them - they'll behave for the rest of their lives.
John, Australia

I used to be a vulnerable teenager and have done some crazy things in my past. I was locked up on several occasions for arson. I am not asking for your forgiveness. What I want to make clear is that teenagers are very impressionable and follow trends to look so called "cool"! Maybe we should have legal ways of punishing young offenders instead of letting them back on the streets to create more crime.
Paul, UK

You can blame all this on the liberals and the looney left. When I was a kid if I stepped out of line a got smacked for it, and I didn't have the right to sue my own parents for teaching me right from wrong. I was taught to respect the police, not to be cheeky to teachers, respect and help old people. The establishment has brought this sorry mess down on us, and it will only get worse unless old values are reintroduced.
Baz, UK

What's wrong with kids? Nothing - kids are kids, they are not born with morality nor scruples. The problem then lies with the parents, these people are supposed to instil a sense of morality and social consciousness in their children. It is time to stop blaming the children and punishing them for adults' mistakes. However I am not saying that this behaviour should go unpunished, just that it should be done sooner and have it suit the offence.
Paul Elliott, Canada

I love how every generation blames their kids for crime. Kids do not produce criminals, bad inattentive parents produce criminals. When the parents start living right and taking their responsibilities, the children will follow in their footsteps.
Tim Renfro, USA

It's not just crime, it's the whole attitude

CC, England
It's not just crime, it's the whole attitude. One's forever seeing proto-teenagers just out of nappies having shot straight to heels from their Barbie flashing trainers and by-passing much that could be considered childhood. I saw two small girls (6? 7? 8?) strutting round the supermarket the other day idly tossing E-number laden food-type stuff into the trolley of their exhausted mother. She looked nice enough but was clearly out of control. The clothes these two children were wearing? T-shirts with Capri pants, the t-shirt of one said "my best friend's a slut", the other: "bossy bitch". It's the fact that these things are thought up, "designed", made, bought that so astonishes and just forms part of the general coarsening and cheapening of modern life in which criminal youth is just a part.
CC, England

Today, because of the do-gooders in society and a rise in rights for children and other things like making punishment and chastisement illegal, it is no wonder we have bad kids. I have had youths knocking on my ground floor flat window and when I ring the police the response is useless and they say there is nothing we can do. Last year, I actually threw a can of pop at one of these youths and it bruised his leg slightly and he threatened to get his friends on me, but I got a gang of people from the local council and close friends who went to this kid's house and they all floored him and slapped his face in front of his parents and gave his mum and dad a telling off. They were all warned by the Police but not arrested for that conduct.
Anthony, Accrington, Lancashire, UK

There is a serious problem with youth crime in this country, partly because when an offender is caught the authorities have very little power to stop/punish them. I also feel that the youth of today don't comprehend 'responsibility for your actions'. To them carrying a knife, binge drinking, committing a burglary are things that will increase their social status amongst their peers. They don't understand that pulling a knife on a someone is actually a very serious act. Certain groups/organisation want us to educate the children, show them what's right and wrong - this is as affective as the government campaign against drugs.
Andrew Hughes, UK

Of course it is out of control. The police have no powers, schools have no powers, and now parents have no powers. When I was a kid only 10 years ago, If i did something wrong I would get a smacked behind and it would hurt. But I wouldn't do what I did wrong ever again. Now, smacking is banned, what the hell are we to do? Pay them to be good? People seem to forget the word Punishment. Its means so many different things nowadays but not what its was intentially designed to mean.
Kevin, uk

Crime is dropping under Labour, a fact which the press are working hard to disguise. What is out of control is not youth crime, but youths. If parents are prepared to let their adolescent offspring roam the streets in gangs at night, I venture to suggest that it is the parents who should be blamed. Cases where parents try to control their children and fail are rare compared with those where the parents don't even try. And I'm a parent. I take full responsibility for the conduct of my children in public.
Guy Chapman, UK

Lock them up

Sven, UK
Lock them up. If they commit a crime, lock them up in a prison, not these ridiculous youth homes where they are pampered. Please government sort out these nasty utterly useless people, especially in Hackney , I am white, in a minority and always being approached by groups of ethnic youths wanting to steal form me.
Sven, UK

The infiltration of immigrants into our society has worsened the situation. So many different races and cultures simply cannot exist peacefully together. The melting pot is igniting...

I would say that I was a pretty normal kid growing up in the '60s. When I was 8 or 9 on a few occasions I stole sweets from the local sweet shop. Therefore I would have been in the 10% who committed burglary. I was 15 before I 'binge' drunk 2 1/2 pints (i.e. 5 units ) in a single session, so I was not in the 25% of 13 and 14 year olds but I was certainly in the 50% of 15 and 16 year olds. I broke the law by going into a pub before I was 18 (in that 50% as well) but never carried weapons, so was out of that 25%. In all, these statistics, in my opinion, prove nothing as I bet if you'd asked the same questions 35 years ago you'd have got similar answers.
John D, UK

Causing a drunken racket, being sick, taking class A drugs, damaging cars and abusive selfish behaviour are not restricted to the shell-suited, 'Kappa-class' wee people wee see in our housing schemes. If you spend time in Edinburgh or St Andrews you will see a lot of intense alcohol and coke consumption swearing and rudeness amongst the 'Yah- super darling' class public school students and undergrads! What should we do for them? Build a community centre?
Brian, Edinburgh, Scotland

The main problem comes in the form of a question. How do you ensure that parents are responsible for their children's actions?

J Fletcher, UK
There has always been youth crime but the age of those offending seems to be lower. There is no doubt that the amount of press coverage gives the perception of increased crime. At the same time there seems to be a significant drop in general standards. Some children are simply not taught the difference between right and wrong. This comes from parents, sometimes schools and for those involved, the justice system. They are taught that the consequences of their actions do not matter and that punishment for those actions is fairly liberal. The main problem comes in the form of a question. How do you ensure that parents are responsible for their children's actions?
J Fletcher, UK

An observation from the other side of the Big Pond: I am 38 years old, in the period between my 18th birthday to my past one, there have been over 122,000 new laws enacted here, just by the federal government alone. There have been less than 50 removed from the law books. This does not even take into account the new laws brought into law by each individual state, county, city or township. Odds are that at least one thing you do a week will be considered "against the law". So I think the article should have read that 50% "knowingly" broke the law. As long as each new politician feels the urge to make his mark on society by getting as many laws passed as they can, the average citizen will have to walk a very thin line between legality, and living.
Jim Wickham, USA

This problem started with the thugs of a 10-20 years ago. Now those thugs have had children, who are a generation or more away from decent values. Sadly, without some extreme measures, I don't think the situation can be saved.
Joakim Ahaga, UK

I grew up in a small village with absolutely nothing to do for teenage kids a bus ride to the town took over an hour, there was only one pub and a small grocery shop - yet we still had the means to get our hands on booze ,but never abused i.e. also mentioned that there was nothing to do, but I can never remember being particularly bored. I had a lot of friends in the same situation as me and now we are all in our mid twenties, settled married and with jobs. :ooking back we could easily have gone around shouting abuse at the elderly on picking on weaker members of the public but we never did. Youth of today needs a good slap and that's it. No moral arguments, no one complaining about human rights kids need discipline if they do something wrong - end of story. I was disciplined for wrong doings by my parents and I turned out fine.
Neil, UK

Kids are out of control, and they know that the criminal justice system is a soft touch, so it acts as no deterrent. Also their parents see a country where the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, and many people feel totally disenchanted with life in the UK - this affects people's attitudes to others, and leads to more crime.
John, London, UK

I have just returned from a long weekend in Brussels and the peace of the city centre streets after dark was a revelation. No gangs of drunken youngsters staggering about, no pools of vomit on the pavement. Just people of all ages enjoying themselves in a civilised fashion.
Jane, Wales, UK

Let's have a zero tolerance society and re-take the streets

Adrian, England
There has always been a youth culture of violence. Mods, Rockers, Skinheads, vandals and joy-riders etc.. The only real difference now is that the age of offenders is much younger and they seem to enjoy a greater immunity from punishment. Clearly the liberal do-gooders are wrong. Corporal punishment, hard punishment, parental fines and a curfew must be a start.

I hate to use modern sound bites, but let's have a zero tolerance society and re-take the streets. I also agree with the idea of compulsory ID cards for everyone above 10 years of age. If you have nothing to fear and you are not a criminal, then why resist this? If there is insufficient custodial space, then let's simply create more detention centres. And if there is concern that petty criminals will learn more from old lags, then put them all into isolation. Don't be under any illusion. If we don't act soon, then a situation that is already out of control will become irretrievable.
Adrian, England

All the comments here may be true to one degree or another, but they also show that there is now a complete lack of discipline and wherever that happens anarchy is not far behind. However could it also be that as a country we are in a distinct minority in abolishing national service. The politicians may think it's reintroduction will not be the best vote winner but I know personally many military ranks who would love to get their hands on a few of the worst offenders for a few weeks. To those who say the cost is not justified, then please compare it to the cost of anarchy.
Norm Owen, UK

J, England, says "The difference today is that an automatic respect for authority when challenged does not exist." Well, I believe the fault is with many adults who no longer challenge anti-social behaviour. Is it because they feel guilty because they remember when they themselves got up to "mischief"? If so, don't they also remember, that once challenged by an adult, they stopped, ran away, and possibly never did THAT again? Just the other evening, at about 7.30pm, I approached the local railway station, and observed 3 teenage lads and two teenage girls engaged in petty vandalism - climbing on the shelters, swinging the screens etc. If I was like some of your contributors, I should have feared for my safety, and not said a word to the little darlings. In fact, I yelled at the top of my voice, "Oi! What d'you think you're doing?". Am I now typing this from my hospital bed, having been beaten up, knifed, shot? No. The little brats ran off as fast as they could go (with one obscenity yelled back at me). Unfortunately, I didn't have a mobile 'phone so couldn't call the police first.
PJ, West Yorkshire, UK

Unfortunately we live in a society where taking responsibility for your own poor behaviour has taken a back seat to looking for others to blame. Yes, youngsters have always hung around on street corners. The difference today is that an automatic respect for authority when challenged does not exist. Consequently young people believe that they are entitled (often encouraged by their parents) to question authority in whatever form it takes (whether it be teachers or police) and cite all sorts of reasons excusing their poor behaviour.

In my local area the children said that they had nothing to do. The council spent upwards of 50,000 pounds on skate parks requested by the youngsters. They have since been vandalised and become hotbeds for crime and drugs. The Police have cited that there has been a massive increase in antisocial behaviour locally, mirroring the national situation. As a teacher I am confident that this is the case as I see it every day. We too remain virtually powerless to exact meaningful discipline as parents will often contact us requiring justification for detentions etc, etc! Yes I'm afraid I do blame poor parenting.
J, England

Stop blaming children for society's failure

Andrew Curtis, UK
It's all scaremongering. Has anyone looked at what children have to do these days. No social centres, no parks and because of the cost of living the only enjoyment they can afford is to get drunk. What is the difference between 16 and 18? Not much. If you are old enough to be able to conceive then you are old enough to drink. Stop blaming children for society's failure.
Andrew Curtis, UK

Not true Andrew Carter. Sure there has always been a level of natural teenage rebellion against authority, but it is an entirely different situation today. Today I see a deep malaise in society, an ugliness, that has perhaps been building for a while but has only really become noticeable in the last few years. The cause however is vague, all we see are the outer manifestations, the symptoms. One of which is a youth that is out of control.

You say that kids are no different today than kids always were. But I'm pretty sure that 20 years ago 10% of kids had not committed burglary. That is an appalling statistic. But it's not just the youth. It's society in general. All sense of social responsibility and respect for others has evaporated and been replaced with a culture of selfishness, of self-gratification and greed. Even something as basic as the everyday language of people today has become much cruder and more coarse than just a few years ago. In short society has lost (or is losing) it's moral and ethical values.
M Maguire, UK

With respect to the comments made by Andrew C. Do you call the gang rape by 30 youths in Guildford, and the murder in the East End of a man by just as large a gang, accompanied as it was by a triumphal dance by the teenage murderer, scaremongering? I don't think so. And if you think this has been seen before, again, I don't think so, well at least, not since the war. To put this down to a lack of social facilities or boredom is to betray utter naivety. As for references to Cato, this sort of barbaric (and cowardly) behaviour by gangs of youths, has very little to do with wearing your hair long, or effeminate ways. The Romans may have been barbaric but they at least would have been civilised (and smart) enough to see these acts for what they were. The only concession they would have shown the perpetrators would be to give them a chance to work off their frustrations in combat in the arena, which, judging by their mentality I think they would even have enjoyed. I think the crowd might have too.
Roman, UK

With regard to Andrew Carter's reference to Cato, I believe Juvenal in his Satires bewailed how if you were a victim of a crime attempted to defend himself it was likely to be the victim that ended up in court paying for the offence. What was true in Roman Times seems to be true today. Having teenagers repeatedly let off (sometimes up to 30 times), because they are below the age of criminality, 'innocent' or 'immature' (which nowadays is utter nonsense to suggest in the most severe and repeated cases) is hardly going to encourage individuals or communities to take personal risks in following Blunkett's proposals for 'policing' by the community. Such proposals are a waste of time unless accompanied by changes in the criminal justice system (which is currently so lax as to be effectively impotent and apparently just as effeminate as Cato's descriptions of the youth of his time).
Roman, UK

"Children are out of control, not like when I was young". Yawn, yawn. I seem to recall reading something by someone complaining about the disrespect shown by youth to their elders and how badly behaved they were, even to the point of dressing in a fashion so you couldn't even tell who was boy and who was girl. I think the writer's name was Cato and he was a Roman consul in the 2nd century BC. These reports and articles are just endless recycling of themselves but at least they give journalists and reporters an easy article to write (copy?) every now and then. A total non-story!!
Andrew Carter, UK

What needs to be done. Criminal records need to be a public record available for scrutiny by any member of the public upon demand - regardless of the age of the offender. The reason why children commit adult crime is they know that they cannot be held to account in anyway near the level of an adult - time for a change that reflects the needs of the victim.
Richard, UK

When you see an article on the news about an out-of-control teenager, you know exactly what their parents are going to be like before they even come on the screen. The parents are likely the yobs of 15-20 years ago. How can they be expected to bring their children up to be peaceful, respect property etc. given their experience? The "me,me,me" culture nurtured by Thatcherism and carried on by New Labour, who perversely seem to be more right-wing than the Tories, doesn't help. As for a solution, the only hope is for a popular youth movement which advocates peace and respect - let's hope there's a hippy revival!
Robert C, UK

Several people have said it: the deterrents are minimal. Whatever happened to the notion of making up to the community? I see plenty of graffiti that could be cleaned up, plenty of litter and decay that needs tidying up, plenty of community projects that cannot be done because of lack of resources - there is plenty of scope for a meaningful and beneficial deterrents for "bored" teenagers if only the judicial system were allowed to deal out such punishments.
Nic, UK

All I hear on this forum is "It's the parents fault", "it's the governments fault" or "it's the Police fault". In the end it is the fault of the children responsible and they need to be taught that they and they alone are responsible for their actions. I hate to say this as I have always been against the idea but the only way to teach such thugs is to put them in a forces type environment, perhaps national service is not such a bad idea after all.
Ian Thomas, England

I was a Police officer and a councillor before that. Young people today are brainwashed. Having to go out and drink is a must. And they get away with it. On duty and off I used to see young people as you as 13 completely drunk and unable to walk. The majority of the time the parents just put it down to "teens". I didn't do this as a teenager and nor my friends...Oh by the way I'm 28.

We blame the parents - I'm sure people will agree that some parents are to be blamed. But don't always look at those living on a council estate or from a trouble upbringing. The only way to beat this is to step down hard. Warning and cautions just don't get the job done. Youth groups are not working either. The fact is that the whole system is full of teenagers and everyone needs to grow up.
Steve, UK

I've noticed a sharp increase in yobbery and vandalism in my area in the last couple of years (a relatively quiet part of a country town), and why? Because the local council, despite objections, allowed a new pub to be built a couple of hundred metres away from my home. I have seen 14-16-year-olds drinking quite openly outside the pub, and I know that at least a couple of them live in my street. What are the parents doing? No doubt in the pub themselves, or glued to the TV - either way, not interested in what their kids are doing. But let me so much as raise my voice to the vandals if I see them committing a criminal act, and I'll have their father on my doorstep, threatening to "re-arrange my face" for "hassling his kid" - what an upside-down society!
Allen, England

The main reason for the behaviour of teenagers as described in the report is boredom, pure and simple. I'm 24 now but was behaving in exactly the same way as teenagers are in 2002. I lived in a town in which youth centres had been closed down and no public amenities existed. As a result Friday night was strong cider, perhaps some cheap drugs and a fight. We had no other way to deal with the pent up aggression which is inherent in a teenager trying to identify how to behave like a man.
Dave, UK

Lack of suitable punishment, lack of parental responsibility and do gooder liberal thinking has brought about this decline in youth behaviour. These kids will carry on doing as they wish as long as the law allows them to. The parents should be made to pay for their offspring and their lack of discipline.
Nick, UK

I started drinking at 12 , and lost everything in the end. It took me about 30 years of hell but it all started then. It is no good blaming the kids, if blame has to be placed I would blame the complete denial society shows in its attitude towards the use of Alcohol. What rationale is there for getting completely drunk on a Friday night being not just acceptable but encouraged behaviour? Adults and kids alike we all need to see the damage, waste and truth about alcohol, it is a very dangerous drug and should be seen, advertised and taught to kids as such. As long as getting drunk is OK , and there is a society based around the use of alcohol, this will always be a problem, when kids look up to their "elders" and see them drinking, often to excess, what are they supposed to think? We all learn from our elders.
Simon, England

The question should be "Are the politically correct out of control"? Lack of parental discipline, weak willed social workers and spineless - gutless courts simply put offenders back on the street to steal more to pay for the last conviction. The pendulum will swing back one day, may it be sooner than later.
Peter Nixon, uk/usa

We should raise the age limit for drinking alcohol to 21 years like in many American states, and take alcohol licenses from landlords and shops that break the law. By the time kids have attained this age, the majority have matured, have partners and have a different outlook on life. It's simple really. If we can't control them when they are drinking, then don't let them drink.
Baz, UK

I belong to the woolly liberal brigade, not the hang them and flog them. But I expect my daughter to grow up respecting the rules, and if she strays, she will not be let off. It is the parents' responsibility to put some sense in their children and this is what I intend to do. I do not want my daughter to become just another statistic.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

I started drinking when I was 8, and started heavily when I was 12 at parties and sometimes on the streets. Then I started on drugs at an early age. I've just finished uni and have lots of friends and a active social life. Teenage drinking is not as big a problem as you think it is, these figures are not shocking to anyone with any sort of realistic grip on reality.
James, UK

I was kept awake on Friday night because a gang of youths were running about shouting, drinking and fighting until the early hours of the morning

Paula, London, UK
I was kept awake on Friday night because a gang of youths were running about shouting, drinking and fighting until the early hours of the morning. This has not been the first time this has happened either. A little while ago I was forced to phone the police as the same group were shouting racist abuse at passers-by and smashing windows in cars. I do not live in a particularly nasty area and I am not some grouchy old person fed up with young people - I am only 25!

The problem is that when I phoned the police, they weren't able to come for another two hours. I know that all the kids are local, in fact I have recently seen where one of the kids lives - from where his mother is, she would see what he is up to, but chooses not to do anything. In this circumstance, what can I do? The police aren't able to do anything, and the parents won't do anything. I can imagine what would happen if I went round to the house and asked the parents to keep their children under control.
Paula, London, UK

Those are shocking numbers, really terrible. We all expect a certain amount of horseplay from teenagers, that's natural, but this is terrible. Perhaps our society has just become too liberal and tolerant of social disorder?
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

Pubs full of under-age drinkers. Regular street fights on a Friday and Saturday night, involving heavy police presence. Violence in the classroom. An almost institutionalised culture of petty crime, including shop lifting and vandalism. It's terrible how bad things are nowadays! But hold on - I'm not talking about now - I'm referring to what life was like in my home town when I was growing up 30 years ago! I'm sure that things have got worse, but let's not view the past with rose tinted glasses. Things weren't really much better in "the old days" - it's just that the media didn't make as much effort to report on the problems.
John, England

I bet things would change if parents had to pay for the damage caused by these children

Ian, England
Is it any wonder that parents who have been brought up with no sense of community and who want rights but not responsibility produce children with no respect for others? I have two teenage sons. I consider it my responsibility to ensure their good behaviour. I seem to be in a minority. I bet things would change if parents had to pay for the damage caused by these children.
Ian, England

What needs to be done? Parents need to address their responsibilities more thoroughly, that's what needs to be done. It's no good simply house-training a child and then letting it loose on the streets at all hours of the day and night. There'll be mayhem. QED.
Chris B, England

For time immemorial there has always been rebellious youth, myself no exception. If we were caught we had to face up to whatever punishment that was dished out as chastisement. Today, we have increasing numbers of parents who are either unavailable due to working hours or worse still, could not care less what their offspring are up to given any time. This coupled with an increasing drugs problem, encouraged by drugs pushes, means that our youngsters have all the more reason to look for money, even by dishonest means, because they have a habit to feed.
Hazel, UK

Alcohol is dangerous if you don't know how to deal with it and those under eighteen often don't

Bill, UK
When you consider how the brewing industry targets the young with designer drinks that taste like ice lollies, then I can't say this comes as much as a shock. Additionally there are a number of rogue off-licences that are happy to sell alcohol to the under eighteens and sadly even when this is reported to local councils, it takes at least six months for them to be rapped on the knuckles, let alone have their licence revoked.

Contrast that with what happens at beer festivals, where hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people come together with the single purpose of drinking alcohol. If you believe the opinion of some commentators, that the British do not know how to drink, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Not so, in over twenty years of visiting beer festivals I've yet to see my first punch-up. Alcohol is dangerous if you don't know how to deal with it and those under eighteen often don't. Stop them getting their hands on it and the problem will go away. The problem is those with vested interests in the profits they make from sales to youngsters would rather someone else sorted out the problem while they take the profits.
Bill, UK

Yes it is out of control. No doubt the armchair experts who have no kids of their own will be out in force blaming it all on the parents when the real root cause is the steady rise in "rights" for children, championed by the do-gooder brigade at the expense of the rights of parents and the authorities in general to bring troublemakers to book at an early stage. We will pay a heavy price for such out of touch thinking.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

The root cause of youth crime is boredom and lack of purpose

Matt, England
It has almost become unfashionable - and impossible - to discipline children. The root cause of youth crime is boredom and lack of purpose. We need solid, clear laws to prevent young people "hanging around" in the street with nothing to do. Parents who let their kids do this would then be forced to take some responsibility and provide them with more useful things to do.
Matt, England

The young children of Britain have pretty much learnt that they can do as they please with impunity. This mindset of young Britain has to be changed by the perseverance of the parents. It is up to the parents eventually to teach better things to their children rather than letting them be out on the streets with nothing worthwhile to do.

I must say, I think John, England is right except on one point. The media wrung their hands about it 30 years ago. We were just too young to bother reading it! It always reminds me of the people that tell you of the wonderful spirit there was in the Blitz. They always forget to mention the looters that were around!
R, England

John has got it exactly right. The figures for teenage drinking look roughly the same as when I was a teenager (20+ years ago). I grew up in Nottinghamshire, and I remember very clearly the weekend brawls, and the rowdiness in the town square - and it's exactly the same now. A rock band in the early 80s had the line "the lights go out, the fists fly in, it's the usual Friday scene." Nothing changes. I currently live in Edinburgh, and like the rest of Scotland, we have somewhat more relaxed laws on drinking - but we still get the troubles on weekends - except they last from 11pm when the first pubs close until 3am when the last pubs close. I don't think adjusting licensing laws will make much difference, attitudes have to change - the campaign against drink driving shows that a long term, committed approach can work, but it requires the will of many governments to make it happen.
Eddie, Scotland

Like many things, these figures don't surprise me. It sounds no different from when I was growing up in London's East End over 20 years ago. Indeed, I'd suggest that it was worse then and there than the figures revealed today. At that time, this would have been described as an inner city, working class, problem. Perhaps the apparent increase is more about our having a far more homogeneous youth culture now than we had then. Homogenisation means that the cream gets dragged down as the milk gets pulled up. As a result the so called middle classes now see it invading the leafy suburbs. Indeed they notice it even more, because they have also chosen to live in places like Islington. Areas which would have been seen previously as bastions of the working classes.
Desmond, UK

Imagine stealing someone's car or beating up a pensioner only to be given a safari in Africa

Dave, UK
A major part of the problem seems to be the apparent inability of the judicial system to deal with these people. There seem to have been a lot of cases in the press lately of kids of 15-16 with a string of crimes behind them but they are still out there. Or quotes from the police saying "we know who it is" but do they do anything? I have to say a lot of the attitude of these brats must stem from indifference and indiscipline from the parents. Perhaps if the parents were held to a certain extent responsible for the actions of their offspring they may do something? Or would they bleat. I used to be a kid and I'm sure I did a few things wrong but an actual punishment after being caught sure did the trick. Imagine stealing someone's car or beating up a pensioner only to be given a safari in Africa. I know which way I'd have turned out.
Dave, UK

These are shocking numbers, although not totally surprising. Britain is still a society where children are treated like second class citizens. Just look at some of the discussions on this site regarding parental rights. The prevailing views tend to be that children are a "lifestyle choice" and parents should be forced to work overtime just because others do it. Parents aren't superhuman. If they can't be allowed to take it easy in the workplace when their children are growing up then we will end up where we are today, with children running out of control. I fear for what will happen when we grow older. It's today's children who are supposed to look after us then. Will they care or will they just abandon us as we have them? Britain has a lot to learn from the continent where children are welcomed into restaurants with their parents, where parents are encouraged to spend time with their children and where children are taught respect for other generations by including them in the family.
Christine, UK

Accountability is the key. Make the kids to do community service so that they can pay off, to the hour, the damage they have caused.
Wendy, UK

Only 15 years ago I was carrying on in the manner described in the report. Luckily I wasn't caught and put in a youth detention centre or I would probably be a career criminal today. The main reason I behaved badly is that there was nothing to do but hang around street corners, this leads inevitably to vandalism, delinquency and alcohol/drug abuse. Would you rather the teenagers hung around in parks to be kidnapped or murdered?
Oliver Richardson, UK

I believe the youths of today have a far too casual attitude towards life and they are brought up knowing they can virtually get away with murder

Paul Kenyon, Skelmersdale, Lancashire
I believe the youths of today have a far too casual attitude towards life and they are brought up knowing they can virtually get away with murder. If harsh law systems were introduced and a select few members of our troublesome society were made examples of, then our children may think twice about committing any crime what so ever.
Paul Kenyon, Skelmersdale, Lancashire

I blame the parents. I was brought up rough and ready, but was taught the difference between right and wrong. I think the people of this generation are too soft and simple systems like the cane in schools should be brought back. Children may then think twice about stepping out of line.
Mark Blackburn, Essex, UK

My wife has just given birth to a beautiful baby daughter and I will say that the way our streets are soaring with general crime, by the time she is a teenager this would have worsened - unless we do something about it. We need more police on the streets and if nothing is done I will be reluctant to let my daughter over our doorstep. I also think that our society lacks a bit of good old fashioned discipline.
Adam Spicer, Emerson Park, Essex

A three point plan; 1) make it illegal for any group of more than three teenagers to meet (the police need not rigorously enforce this law, it is just there in case they need it to break up an intimidating gang that have, as yet, broken no other laws). 2) Put youth offenders in the stocks in town squares and provide passers by with a handy source of rotten fruit. Much cheaper than prison and, I would imagine, just as much of a deterrent. 3) Make parents pay twofold for any damage caused by their offspring. However, they may need help from social workers to regain the control they should be exercising.
Kevin, England

I started drinking from the age of 12 and found myself losing my friends, my family and my mind. Drinking at such a young age did not help me mentally and I now cannot face alcohol because of the way I abused my body as a youth. I would like to think I am an example to youngsters wishing to go down the same road.
Paul Gower, Rockingham, Western Australia

The figures don't surprise me, but they do depress me. But if these children are out breaking into houses, getting into fights and getting badly drunk, what are their parents doing? As ever, children out of control are the result of poor parenting.
David, UK

Youth crime is spiralling out of control. I think there should be some sort of programme working alongside the parents of youths who repeatedly re-offend. I also think that curfews in areas with a high rate of youth crime, should be put in place, and most importantly, these must be reinforced by a police presence. It is unacceptable for the people in these cities to be the victims of crime that could easily be prevented. Mr Blair needs to remember that he is BRITAIN'S Prime Minister.
Miss Watson, UK

We have created a climate in which crime is allowed to flourish

Peter Sykes, UK
It comes as no surprise that youth crime is flourishing in this country. Successive governments have stripped the police and courts of any effective means of deterring crime by severely restricting the availability of appropriate punishments. Couple this with an increased emphasis on the "rights" of individuals, the undermining of school discipline and the draconian pursuit of any person who raises his hand in defence of his property or person and you have the recipe for a crime jamboree. There needs to be a re-emergence of common sense policies towards young offenders combined with the imaginative use of social penalties for law breakers.

Instead of prosecuting parents for smacking children (the recent case in Scotland) or locking up shopkeepers for eight hours for defending themselves with a hockey stick (recently featured on this site)the law should be combining robust rules of engagement which enable honest people to take reasonable steps to protect themselves with a supportive attitude to home and school discipline backed up by genuine deterrents to criminal activity.

Linking these issues with "binge drinking" is something of a red herring. The British are, quite simply, immature in their attitude to alcohol consumption and this in itself will have only a marginal effect on rates of offending. We have created a climate in which crime is allowed to flourish. It is now incumbent on our politicians to support those who wish to see a more law-abiding society.
Peter Sykes, UK

Yes, of course youth crome is out of control. Just try finding a town without extensive vandalism, or a local paper without a selection of reports of youth violence. I believe we are reaping the rewards of a crime-lenient society. Consider this; youths growing up in most places in the uk see both adult criminal being set free by courts after strings of convictions, and also see their peer groups being ignored or "let off" for petty crimes and offensive behaviour. So of course thay are not dissuaded from taking a similar course themselves. The time has come for us to permanently cast aside those who repeatedly commit crimes, and to deal far more harshly with youths who commit offenses the police may currently regard as just a nuisance. There is no reason why we should live with these people, and in the absence of a place to deport them to, we need to lock them away for ever.
Wendy Wartoff, UK

See also:

08 Apr 02 | Health
Alarm over teenage binge drinking
26 Jul 01 | Health
Teens risking future health
20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
06 Jul 00 | Health
Teenage drinking
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