4.5 Crime in Our Society

There is no doubt that our society is becoming more and more violent. It is not as safe as it used to be to go about our usual routine, particularly late at night. More and more we hear of criminal offences, often for no particular reason whatsoever. And if that is not bad enough, we are told that it is likely that things could get worse, if the experience of New York and other American cities is anything to go by

There is no simple explanation for this phenomenon. Man is getting wilder and more violent. There is more than one kind of criminal of course. One can exclude in the first instance that group of psychologically disturbed persons who in a fit of madness kill or maim.

Another kind of criminal is that involved in organised professional hold-ups and robbery of banks, garages etc. A third category includes those involved in crime associated with maintenance of a drug habit - some need to steal to obtain their daily supply of drugs. And finally, there is that kind of crime that is becoming more and more common in the US and elsewhere: crime that is committed for its own sake, just for fun, just for something to do and to occupy oneself

There is no doubt that there is an explanation for all this. Are we more deprived today than we were say 20 years ago, or do we expect more rewards from society than we ever used to expect? It would appear that we are bombarded by a constant stream of advertisements on television, radio, newspapers, telling us all the things that we could get, if only we had the money. We are titillated with shows that stimulate our desire to achieve and dominate. We find that in comparison with what we see, we are extremely deficient. We are neither rich enough, nor strong enough, nor attractive enough, nor successful enough compared to the ephemeral figures on television or cinema screens that entertain us every night for hours on end.

So we react in whichever way we can. If unemployed, there is a temptation to solve all our problems by stealing. If employed in a lowly position, we take our revenge by taking a 'sickie' or steal a pair of working gloves. If criminally disposed, mentally disturbed, or under the influence of drugs, one may find it impossible to resist getting involved in some act of violence on person or property.

We are particularly interested in the migrant community. What is the rate of crime in our community compared to the rest? A study by Kayleen Hazlehurst (1987): "Migration, Ethnicity and Crime in Australian Society" summarises some of the data relating to migrants and crime. Her conclusions are as follows:

Persons from the general migrant population commit fewer offences and are less likely to be in prison than persons from the Australian-born population. There are nearly four times as many Australian-born as overseas-born in the prison population. However, the trend is for the ethnic community to become more and more like the general population with increasing time of residence in Australia. Male prisoners are 20 times more numerous than female prisoners.

In general, the study found that the unemployed, those with a low level of education, the young (20-24 year olds), and those trafficking in drugs are more likely to commit crime.

We should not be complacent about such findings. We have to remember that most of our youngsters aged 20-24 are Australia-born and would be included as such in any statistics quoted above. It is a fact that the rate of crime is also increasing in suburbs where Maltese are present in high numbers, and that more and more Maltese youths are involved in such activities.

As an ethnic group, we have not been particularly successful in looking after our youth. There are not enough youth workers employed specifically to look after the needs of Maltese youth. We need to provide facilities for supervised recreation and socialising. Above all, we must be aware of the problems and pressures that modern youth are subjected to, and to be ready to help them as they face such problems.

[From: Il-Maltija, July 1989]

Source: Maurice N.Cauchi - The Maltese Migrant Experience, Malta 1999

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