Catch 22 finds public unfairly demonises young people

Nearly two-thirds of adults in the UK overestimate the number of young people involved in crime, according to research launched today by Catch22.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults commissioned by the charity found that on average respondents thought that 16.8% of teenagers were involved in crime, compared with a true figure of 5.7%.

Around one in ten adults said they thought that 40% of teenagers were involved in crime – over seven times the true figure.

Forty per cent of respondents also thought that teenagers had a predominantly negative impact on their community. Just 7% said they associated young people with volunteering whereas figures show that 48% have carried out unpaid work for their community.

Stark contrast between perception and reality

The charity said there was a “stark contrast” between public perception and the real contribution that young people make.

Chief executive Joyce Moseley called on the public to “buck the negative trend”. She said: “We must not fall into demonising young people. Young people do not all wield knives and commit crime – many do far more to improve their communities than any other age group.”

The research is being used to encourage nominations for the Philip Lawrence Award, which honours the achievements of 11-20-year-olds who have had a positive impact on their community.

Murder of Philip Lawrence

The award was set up following the death of head teacher Philip Lawrence who was killed by a teenager outside his school in 1995. The judging panel includes young people, past winners and experts in the field, and is led by broadcaster Trevor McDonald.

Lawrence’s widow, Frances Lawrence, said: “There seems to be a widespread and deeply engrained notion that young people are responsible for much of what is wrong in our communities. As if trouble and youth are inseparable. Such an attitude is not only hurtful young people but unhealthy for society as it makes people overly fearful.”

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