Who will respond to crimes committed by young people? Services seen from the perspectives of professionals, young people and costs

Elina Pekkarinen, Lotta Haikkola, Noora Hästbacka & Anton Schalin

In Finnish: Kuka vastaa nuorten rikoksiin? - Ammattilaisten, nuorten ja kustannusten näkökulmia palveluihin

People are most prone to committing crimes during adolescence. Usually this is a passing phase and the crimes are minor. However, among all young people, a small group commits most of the serious and repeated crimes. There is little research information in Finland on the effectiveness of measures intended to prevent crime. In this four-part research project, 1) a systematic qualitative literature review was carried out on research into the effectiveness of measures and cost benefits, 2) intervention practices related to crimes committed by young people were examined in Finland by means of phone interviews, 3) operating models were studied ethnographically in four towns, and 4) opportunities for a register-based analysis of cost effects were explored.

According to the results of the literature review, intimidation and control are not effective. Some young people only need a minor intervention, such as a serious discussion, while extensive long-term interventions should be targeted at young people with a high risk of repeated criminal acts. Research has proved that psychosocial and therapeutic methods that facilitate family participation are effective. The examination of Finnish practices shows that systematic models focus on early intervention, such as serious discussions with first-timers and evaluations. The target group of repeat offenders and young people with the strongest tendencies to act criminally has been overlooked, and methods to help young people leave crime have not been developed sufficiently. Criminal procedures and child protection processes are not always integrated with the young person’s best interests in mind, as clear overall responsibility for services for young people has not been assigned to any party. The young people who were interviewed felt that there were few support services available.

Long-term services for young people in need of stronger support should be developed more systematically, along with the facilitation of youth social work. Work in various sectors should be coordinated, and the division of responsibilities should be clarified. Effective, cost-efficient services must be sought through systematic experimentation, with special attention being paid to the high-quality implementation of operating models.