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The cruelty of youth

The British fear their own offspring.


What would you do if you came across a small group of 14-year-old boys ramping up a bus shed? The British Institute for Public Policy (IPPR) asked the question to a selection of people in several European countries, and the results of the research were recently published. Either the British testify to general disdain for public property, or IPPR suggests in its report: The Englishmen fear their youngest countrymen.

For 30 per cent of the British state that they would never have dared to intervene. 32 percent would probably have looked the other way, 23 percent would probably have resigned, and only 11 percent would have certainly confronted the youth. No other European country group is as scared of its young as the British. Only seven percent of Germans say they would never dare to go in between.

Over the past year, 1,5 million Britons have considered moving for fear of young people hanging around the neighborhood. For the same reason, 1,7 million avoid going out in the dark.

This type of avoidance can create an even more secure everyday life, says researcher Sturla Falck at the Norwegian Institute for Research on Growth, Welfare and Aging (Nova).

- The fear of being attacked is often worse than the attack itself. Withdrawal is always easier than confrontation. But the fact that people are fleeing an area does not make it any safer, says Falck to Ny Tid.

However, the fear may be justified by the statistically higher incidence of some forms of crime such as harm, violence, theft and certain types of robbery among youth under 20, says Tore Bjørgo, a professor and head of research at the Police College.

- This type of petty criminal activity peaks in the mid-teens, while more serious organized crime is often committed by older people, he says.

France is the only country where, like the United Kingdom, over half the population would not or probably would not dare to stop the vandalism.

"Today, adults choose to look away and cross the streets rather than reprimand the children of others, often for fear of being attacked," writes IPPR editor Nick Pearce.

The British think tank recommends a new donor to employ the youth, first and foremost on a statutory longer school day with a built-in organized leisure service, but also through the establishment of several leisure clubs. 74 percent of the country's 4,6 million young people aged 11-16 have no leisure club to go to.

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