Why It Matters

Errant youth need support

Every day in 2016, about three youngsters under the age of 16 were arrested by the police.

A total of 1,134 juveniles were nabbed for various offences that year.

While the figure is lower than the 1,561 arrested in 2012, it is not insignificant.

Besides, a sizeable proportion of these juveniles get into trouble with the law over and again.

The latest figures show that among offenders aged between seven and under-16 who completed rehabilitation in 2011, 16.7 per cent re-offended within three years.

This is a drop from the 20.3 per cent of the 2007 cohort that was tracked for three years until 2010.

To keep the recidivism rate even lower, an inter-ministerial committee will be set up to find ways to give these youngsters greater support to help them stay on the straight and narrow.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said every youth who slips back into crime is a life wasted. He added: "It is not just numbers; these are lives you are talking about. So, we shouldn't rest on our laurels and say, well, our recidivism rate is pretty low, so let it be."

Youth workers from AMKFSC Community Services say some youth want to change after getting caught, but due to the bad influence of their peers, they fall back into their delinquent ways not long after rehabilitation .

Social workers say it is critical to provide as much support as possible for these youth to turn their lives around as soon as they show signs of delinquency.

The longer they remain in the cycle of wrongdoing, the harder it is for them to break free from the grip of vice and crime.

Ms Iris Lin, head of youth services at Fei Yue Community Services, said: "The first time they beat or slash someone, they feel very scared and worried when they are caught by the police. But not so the second or third time round, as they know what to expect. They are desensitised."

And if left unchecked, a young offender could very well grow up to become a career criminal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'Errant youth need support'. Print Edition | Subscribe