Crimes by minors are expected to show an increase this year, with 421 cases recorded across Oman by the end of September compared with 445 arrests for delinquency for all of last year
Delinquency on the rise in Oman: Parents to blame?
Faheem Al Shatry woke up one morning last week to find his car with a window smashed and the navigational system stolen.
It was the third time in a month that a car on his street had been broken into. A day later, police arrested two 15-year-old boys from an adjacent street after matching their fingerprints to those found on Mr Al Shatry's car.
“The kids who broke into my car are different from the ones who did the same with two other cars before that in the last 30 days,” said Mr Al Shatry, 31, who lives in Maabela, in north Muscat.
“The neighbours told me they lived a few streets away from my house. Maybe they did it because they think it’s cool.”
Crimes by minors are expected to show an increase this year, with 421 cases recorded across Oman by the end of September compared with 445 arrests for delinquency for all of last year.
The ministry of social affairs says that in the past 10 years there has been an average increase of 7 per cent in small crimes committed by minors, and psychologists say that parents are to blame.
“If children engage in crimes it is because parents, somewhere, have failed them. They rebel outside their homes if parents don’t have time for them,” said Kamila Al Sharji, 36, a child psychologist and teacher at Al Mawaleh School.
"We are so busy working and earning a living, we fail to be responsible parents. If children don’t get the guidance at home, then the void is filled by unscrupulous people outside their homes.
“We need to look at ourselves before we blame the environment or [others in] society.”
Oman — like most Arab countries — is a familial society and children, generally, live with their parents until they get married. However, with a 4.3 per cent average inflation in Oman, driven by food and fuel prices, parents are spending less time at home.
Also, some experts argue that family dynamics have shifted over the past decade with children having two working parents instead of just one. According to the ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, 72 per cent of couples are now both working compared to only 23 per cent in 1997.
“This is the professional era for couples in Oman. They both go to work and have little time for children, unlike it was 20 years ago,” Ms Al Sharji said.
She suggested a nationwide campaign to raise awareness on child rearing for young and working parents.
Some parents believe that giving their children everything is enough, but it is in fact spoiling them, said Ms Al Sharji.
“The campaign is needed to tell them they are wrong. Children do not need expensive toys but attention and love. To spend quality time with them is important,” she said.
Hassan Al Hajry, a volunteer at the ministry of social affairs who specialises in juvenile delinquency, said that crimes by minors peak during the summer — from May to August — during the school holiday.
“During these four months, about 60 per cent of the total juvenile delinquencies are committed in a year,” he said.
The most common juvenile crime is vandalism, followed by theft, drug use and violence, according to police records.
Young offenders are usually required to do community service, such as beach cleaning or volunteering for a charity, as part of their rehabilitation programme.
Last month, half a dozen children between the ages of 11 and 16 threw stones at windows in the Mawaleh area of Muscat where they live. They were held for one day and released on bail.
“It was their way of protesting after neighbours stopped them from playing football in the street. It is just that stupid,” said Firadous Al Hakmani, one of the home owners whose windows were broken.
Mr Al Hajry said the children's environment and boredom played a large part in delinquency.
“They pick up these bad habits from friends or neighbours. They are also bored and have nothing to do after school. We need to keep them occupied by building local facilities in the neighbourhood, such as gyms or sports facilities," he said.
"At the moment, they have nothing to do but cause mischief."