x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Juvenile crime is society's burden

By enforcing a curfew to fight youth crime, many well-behaved children will be unfairly punished.

'Parental supervision is the main requirement for curbing juvenile crime," said Major Gen Khamis Mattar al Mazeina, Dubai's deputy police chief, in July last year. This came in the wake of an announcement that an average of five crimes a week are being committed by children. Sadly, it seems that the authorities must now take matters into their own hands.

As The National reported yesterday, the government intends to address the rising trend of youth violence by introducing several new laws that will ban the sale and use of "cold weapons" such as knives and swords and banning youths under 15 from being out in public after dark.

The move will be welcomed by residents of neighbourhoods that have suffered from a rise of what police call gang criminal activities. However, while regulating the sale and use of weapons is essential, and indeed long overdue, there is a risk that other measures will be seen as overly draconian that collectively punish the majority of well-behaved children.

Cities in the UAE remain safe in comparison with others in the Middle East and worldwide, but there has been a marked increase in violent assaults by youths over the last decade.

"It started with children fighting in the streets using these kitchen knives and pocket knives and then developed into a more organised gang mentality," said Brig Khalil al Mansouri, director of the Dubai Police Criminal Investigation Department.

Implementing a curfew on children under 15 is a measure that would deal with symptoms rather than the cause of juvenile delinquency. The root of the problem needs to be tackled.

As ever, a heavy burden should be shouldered by the children's parents and schools. Clearly, many children who might be deemed to be troublesome are not being made accountable for their time and actions. It is the guardians who should ensure their children adhere to curfews. Growing up, children are increasingly spending more time with nannies and maids and less with their parents. Consequently, a disconnect is developing with the parents which leads to them spending more and more time away from home. Schools, for their part, must punish truancy and bad behaviour more severely, as well as notify the parents of the actions of their children.

A minority of delinquents have made stricter legislation and vigilance a necessity. But the well-behaved majority should not be made to suffer for their sins.