It used to be thought rather the thing to rob the orchard. It proved that " boys will be boys." Of course, you realised that although the robbery was trivial it betrayed the sin of greed or theft within the boy, and anyway they were your apples, so you spanked him.
But spanking has these days gone out of fashion. There is the risk that should you indulge in it, the boy's parents will take action against you for assault.
Instead of spanking you call the police and the boy is taken before the justices of a Juvenile Court.
No doubt the extension of official authority in this way does account for some part of the startling increase in the figures for juvenile crime in recent years.
Girls More Law-abiding
From 1929 till 1936 the number of boys of under fourteen found guilty of indictable offences has risen steadily from 5,997 to 13,702.
The number of boys aged between fourteen and sixteen has also risen, but not quite so spectacularly.
These arc the full figures: Boys under fourteen:
1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 5,997 6,488 7,191 8,449 9,179 11,115 13,248 13,702
Boys between fourteen and *sixteen: 192e 11130 1931 1932 1933 ' 1934 1035 1136 4,366 4,682 037 1,302 4,292 5,785 7,941 7,811
Girls apparently are much more lawabiding. In 1929 the number of girls of the two age groups found guilty of indictable offences was 380 and 389. By 1936 these figures had risen steadily but not alarmingly to 755 and 492 respectively.
In every case the figures have in creased most rapidly since 1934. The total figures for all children under 17 for these years are 1934: 20,428; 1935: 25,442; 1936: 26,918.
In the "Fifth Report of the Children's Branch "—a report on juvenile crime— published in January of this year, the blame for these disquieting figures is laid, with the intricate and obscure phraseology of which only the English Civil Service is capable, upon the workings of the Children and Young Persons Act which came into force in 1933.
This act increases the scope of the juvenile courts, and impresses upon those who administer the law, of the necessity of guarding the future welfare of the young delinquent.
All the same 13,702 boys under the age of fourteen in 1936 were found guilty of offences against the law. That needs a little more explaining than that there has been more vigilance and more power on the part of our administrators.
In the report it is admitted possible that such things as " poverty, bad housing, the absence of facilities for games, an insufficient number of boys' clubs, the greater temptations which beset the modern boy (such as the greatly increased production of cheap articles attractive to the young, their profuse display in many shops without a corresponding degree of extra supervision by staff, the increased number of cars left unattended), a decay in standards of conduct and parental control, a weakening of religious influences, the lack of oppeehunities for amusement and healthy occupation in some newly developed housing estates," have influenced the increase of crime.
You will notice that religion comes last but one on the list. That is about the position it seems to hold in the minds of a great many people.
Sir Alfred Reit, Conservative M.P. for South-East St. Pancras, wrote to the Daily Telegraph. on April 8, suggesting that the increase in juvenile crime was caused by " that relaxation of discipline and parental influence which has occurred in the average home in this country during the post-war years. There seems to have been a tendency among parents (especially where both go out to work) to have less reliance on their own control over their children and to place an increasing trust in those who have charge of them in the schools."
This seems quite accurate and is a direct result of the State taking upon itself too
much responsibility. Unfortunately the only remedy Sir Alfred can suggest is that of increasing the child's morale in school, not in the home, and the curious way this is to be accomplished is by physical recreation: "there are, as so many of us know, far better opportunities to develop the morale of the young in connection with their games, physical training, and hobbies than in the class room itself."
For those who have already "come in contact with the law in connection with some major or minor offence" he thinks that much could be done " by the development of Approved Schools."
The big objection to the Approved School is that minor offenders are mixed with older and more serious cases and instead of being reformed come out of the school worse.
In general Sir Alfred thinks that " juvenile crime needs to be dealt with by specialists in a sympathetic manner, and it is only by the most careful individual study of each case that we can hope to rectify the anti-social tendencies which express themselves in larceny and other such offences."
Stealing apparently is no hanger a moral offence, but just anti-social.
What Administrators Think The South London Press recently published the results of an enquiry into the causes of juvenile crime. It was not an exhaustive enquiry, but quite an interesting one for it gave some idea-of how the minds of our administrators work—at least our South London administrators. Here are some of their opinions according to the South London Press of April 12.
Councillor W. F. Watson, of Camberwell: " Give youth natural ways of letting off steam by providing wide open spaces together with the organisation of games and juvenile crime will decrease."
Councillor F. T. Jordon, J.P., of Wandsworth: " The unsettling effects of the war, unemployment of a parent with a consequent loss of real home life and comfortable security, are the main causes of juvenile crime increase. . . . While poverty exists there must be evil."
Alderman Mrs. H. E. Hughes: " Unemployment and blind alley occupations for the young breed discontent which leads to crime."
Mrs. Phyllis Tidy, Mayor of Southwark: "Some pictures, bad companionship and housing conditions are the causes of the increase in juvenile crime."
Councillor R. Hunt, of Lewisham: "Lack of constructive education and playing fields arc mainly responsible together with poverty and bad housing conditions. Education, religion and social services only nibble at the problem."
Alderman T. Pocock, LP., of Battersea: "The increase is partially caused by nervous instability, an aftermath of the war, also the semi-destitution of parents through unemployment."
Mr. J. Connelly, senior probation officer, South-West London Juvenile Court:
" Dead-end jobs for children are in my view largely responsible for the increase. Unemployment among adults has a depressing effect on younger people and the many -cheap forms of amusement create a demand for more spending money among children ... slum environment makes it more difficult for a boy to keep out of trouble."
Councillor F. Bright, Mayor of Deptford: " Easy temptations, as in the case of multiple stores with goods displayed in such a way as to make pilfering ridiculously easy, is one of the chief causes of the increase in juvenile crime."
Inspector C. McDonough, Metropolitan Police: " The principal cause of the increase is lack of parental control during the formative years . . . another cause is lack of steady and constant occupation. Children reared in slums are more likely to become criminals because the struggle for existence caused by extreme poverty brings out the animal qualities latent in the human being."
Christianity the Only Cure
With their heads full of indignation at the anti-social, our administrators blame as the causes of juvenile crime, unattended ears, multiple stores, gangster films, aftereffects of war, poverty, dead-end jobs, insufficient playing fields, unemployment, lack of parental control, slums... .
All these no doubt are effective agencies for making crime easier but not one is the root cause.
What Caused the Slums
The slum may seem the natural breeding place of crime, but the slum does not exist of itself.
It exists because of a lack of Christianity in the past and it continues to exist because that lack has not been made good.
Broken homes and lack of parental control are probably even greater causes of crime (86 out of the 150 boys recently admitted to the Philanthropic Society's School, Redhill, came from homes where family life was entirely disrupted), but then again the very reason why these homes are broken, and these parents have lost control of their children is because Christianity has been lost.
Therefore the very first thing to do is try and restore Christianity, or at least a Christian conscience to the people as a whole. Then will it he an easier matter to wreck your slums and build up your family integrity.
The goods will no longer be displayed with tantalising prolificacy in the multiple stores, nor the cars left unattended, or if these things still be, for they are not bad in themselves, the temptation they offer will at least have a Christian conscience to resist it.
Few Sexual Crimes
The great majority of juvenile crimes are connected with theft. Of the 3,759 young persons sent to approved schools in 1936, 1,887 went for larceny, receiving and unlawful possession; 747 went for breaking into houses and shops; 65 for embezzlement and forgery; only 59 for sexual offences.
The Approved School is reserved usually for the worst offenders, and those children apparently without persons to control them. Only about ten per cent. of the total number of children convicted are treated in this way.
There is a stipulation that a child under ten may not be sent to an Approved School but it is evident from figures that this stipulation is not always observed.
A few unfortunate children are still punished with the birch. In 1935 189 were so treated, in 1936 only 155 in spite of an increase in the number of convictions, The great majority of children are let off on probation. It is through probation officers that a great deal of good work is done in making it easier for the boy or girl to remain on the right side of the law.