Juvenile delinquency is not a new invention; it is old as time. Socrates is alleged to have observe: ”The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders love chatter in place of exercise. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents.
Chatter before company. Gobble up dainties at the table, and tyrannize over their teachers.”
History also suggest that the separation of juvenile and adult offenders dates back almost 2500 years, as early as fifth century
B.C. under Roman Law. The Twelve Tables of Roman Law, for example, made the theft of crops, when perpetrated at night a capital crime. An offender under the age of puberty, however, was usually fined and, on some occasions, flogged. Thus, as far back as 451 B.C., juvenile crimes existed. Although juvenile delinquency has a long history, youthful crime is now so alarming in extent and kind that we must modify our approach to juvenile offenders.
Just how serious is the problem.
In the last ten years, crime in the United States has increased four times faster than the national population! The problem is much more chilling when one refers to statistics relating to juvenile crime. More crimes are now committed by children under fifteen
– by our more precious asset, the youth of the United States – than by over twenty five! Reports from the National Council on Crime and
Delinquency and from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show a staggering upsurge in the number of juveniles arrested foe serious crimes.
So and what is juvenile delinquency? Juvenile delinquency means different things to different people. To some, a juvenile delinquent is a boy or girl arrested for a law violation. To others, a single appearance in juvenile court identifies the delinquent. To many, the term covers a variety of antisocial behaviors that offends them, whether or not the law is violated. Juvenile delinquency is a blanket term that obscures rather than clarifies our understanding of human behavior. It describes a large variety of youths in trouble or on the verge of trouble. The delinquent may be anything from a normal mischievous youngster to a youth that is involved in a law violation by accidents. Or he may be a vicious assaultive person who is habitual offender and is recipient of some gratification from his conduct. As a blanket term, delinquency is like the concept of illness. A person maybe ill and have polio or measles. The illness is different, the cause is different, and the treatment is different. The same is true of delinquency. Like illness, delinquency describes many problems that develop from varied causes and require different kinds of treatment. So legally speaking, then, a juvenile delinquent is a child (age defined by statue) who commits any act that would constitute a crime if done by an adult and who is adjudicated as such by an appropriate court.
The police concept classifies the delinquent as the statistical delinquent and personality-disordered delinquent. The statistical delinquent is a youngster who is involved in a delinquent act through impulsiveness or immaturity. As an example, he is involved in an automobile theft without, at that time, realizing the consequence of his actions. Such actions usually occur “on the spur of the moment” while the individual is involved with other youngsters. This youngster is not a recidivist and responds to agency services provided. However he is a “statistic” because this impulsive delinquent act is reported by the arresting agency and, in some cases, in a subsequent referral to the juvenile court.
On the other hand, the personality-disordered delinquent is the youth who is often involved in a series of antisocial acts that necessitates, in most instances, a referral to the juvenile court and, in most cases, custodial care or some type of official help.
So attempting to define a delinquent is extremely difficult.
Juvenile delinquency is not a simple term. It is very elusive and means many different things to different individuals, and it means many different things to different groups. When using the term ‘juvenile delinquency’ properly, one realizes that almost everything a youngster does that does not meet with the approval of individuals or groups may be referred to as a delinquent act. For purposes of research, evaluation, or statistical records, such popular usage is not acceptable.
There are ambiguities and variations in definitions of delinquency in the United States. Many of the states do not agree on the description of a juvenile delinquent. Statutory language is extremely broad and covers virtually any form of antisocial conduct by juveniles.