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An early-response, police-social work collaborative intervention: Perspectives of young participants
University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division of Social Work and Social Pedagogy. (FBU)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4538-6555
University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division of Psychology, Pedagogy and Sociology. (FBU)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3328-6538
2023 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

For society, measures targeted at early crime prevention pose a dilemma. On the one hand, there is a risk that an early intervention can label a young person as a criminal, and have negative consequences on identity formation. On the other, lack of an intervention can have the consequence of a continued lifestyle involving crime. Many are the stories from former prisoners who claim that an earlier intervention could have disrupted an identity trajectory leading to becoming a ‘criminal’ (Kacprzak, 2019). Other research indicates that young people – particularly those from ethnic minority groups – relate to police preventative practices with dissatisfaction (Wästerfors & Burcar Alm, 2020). However, there are also studies which demonstrate that young people experience interventions from police and social services as legitimate and valuable. 

The current study seeks to explore the perceptions of young people aged between 11–17 who received an early intervention following the commission of a crime. In this collaborative project between police and social services, the young person received a coordinated chain of interventions involving first the police, thereafter a social worker, and, finally a qualified youth support worker. Each of the three elements occurred within a two-week period following the commission of the crime. The crime committed could range in severity from shoplifting to a drug offence, or a robbery. 

Participation in the research was voluntary. Those taking part (N=21) were interviewed on a minimum of one and a maximum of three occasions during and after the intervention period. In total, 40 interviews were conducted. The interviews sought to elicit the young people’s perceptions of police practices, the practices of the social and youth workers, the effects on the young people’s attitudes, and their thoughts about the future. Data was analyzed using a narrative approach (Riessman, 2001). Focus was directed to how the young person perceived and understood the actions and practices of professionals involved in the project. In this respect, the interview functioned not only as a means of providing insights, but also a space for self-presentation and the construction of understanding. 

Drawing on theories about procedural justice (Bradford, B. & Jackson, 2015) results reveal, firstly, that the participants experienced the intervention as an opportunity to reflect on the future. While the rapid response – from the police, the social workers, and the youth workers – came as a surprise, participants were positive about this swift reaction. In relation to the police practice of forcibly intervening when the crime had happened (frequently involving a shorter detention), this was perceived in a wider global context of police violence. For example, references were made to the George Floyd case (“I can’t breathe”). Frequently, police actions created a tangible sense of fear. Many participants perceived the intervention as reflective of society’s reaction to criminality. For some, experiences of being ‘labelled’ were prominent. While the results point to the value of a swift response, they also warn of the dangers attached to early labelling.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023.
Keywords [en]
Youth crime prevention, social services practice, police practice, procedural justice, labelling
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Child and Youth studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-19926OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-19926DiVA, id: diva2:1755317
Conference
ECSWR 2023 12th European Conference for Social Work Research, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Italy, 12th - 14th april 2023
Available from: 2023-05-08 Created: 2023-05-08 Last updated: 2023-12-19Bibliographically approved

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Bolin, AnetteSorbring, Emma

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