09 September 2014

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on Juvenile Crime Trends

Question

Mr Christopher de Souza asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs (a) over the last three years (i) what is the breakdown of the number of first-time juvenile offenders; (ii) what are the types of crimes which are most commonly perpetuated by juveniles; (iii) whether there has been an improvement or worsening of the juvenile crime situation; and (iv) what are the recidivism rates for juvenile offenders; (b) what are the range of sentencing options which have been meted out to first-time and repeat juvenile offenders; and (c) whether rehabilitative sentencing measures are used to reduce the rate of juvenile recidivism.

Mr Teo Chee Hean: A juvenile is defined in the Children and Young Persons Act as someone equal to or above 7 years of age, and below the age of 16 years.

Over the last three years, the number of juvenile offenders arrested has decreased by 11%, from 1,488 in 2011 to 1,323 in 2013. This is largely due to a decrease in the number of first-time juvenile offenders arrested. First-time juvenile offenders made up 74% of all juveniles arrested in 2011 and this fell slightly to 71% in 2013. They were mainly students and male, and the type of crime most commonly committed by them was theft-related.

The recidivism rate for juvenile offenders is defined as the percentage of juveniles who reoffended within three years after completing a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) programme such as the Guidance Programme, the Streetwise Programme, probation, or rehabilitation in the Juvenile Homes. The recidivism rate for the most recent cohort discharged in 2009 was 18.9%. The recidivism rates for the 2008 and 2007 cohorts were 16.6% and 20.3% respectively.

MSF, AGC, State Courts and MHA work closely together to ensure that juvenile offenders are placed on the most appropriate rehabilitation programme, based on a holistic assessment of each individual’s background, circumstances and risk of re-offending. The programmes encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions and equip them with the resources and life skills to embark on constructive lifestyles, instead of resorting to crime.
First-time, low-risk offenders are usually placed on diversionary programmes, such as the Guidance Programme or the Streetwise Programme, which have a strong focus on counselling and rehabilitation. The juvenile will be allowed to continue with his or her education while families are actively involved in supporting and helping their children stay crime-free. Higher-risk or repeat offenders are typically placed on probation or in juvenile homes so that they can benefit from more supervision and structure.

As juvenile offending is a complex issue, the Government has set up the National Committee on Youth Guidance and Rehabilitation (NYGR) to coordinate a whole-of-Government response to the issue. I chair the Committee and it has representatives from MSF, MOE, MHA, MOH, AGC and State Courts. In recent years, we have focused our efforts on upstream measures. For instance, in 2013, the Central Youth Guidance Office (CYGO) in MSF started a Parent Outreach and Support project (POSt) in secondary schools to reach out to parents of juveniles who were displaying early signs of risk. Through such dialogues, parents are able to understand how they can play their part to steer their children away from a life of crime. CYGO has also been conducting YouthGO!, a street-outreach programme where youth workers support at-risk juveniles so they will be meaningfully occupied in their studies or work and be resilient when tempted by crime. Since inception in 2011, this programme has seen almost 8,300 interactions between workers and juveniles or youths.
One of the areas we are concerned about is the attitude of the young towards drugs. Many of them may wrongly perceive drugs such as methamphetamine, cannabis or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), which are chemically modified substances mimicking the effect of controlled drugs, to be less addictive or less dangerous. This is not true. These drugs are known to have long-term physical, social and psychological effects on abusers. Hence, the CNB works closely with schools to coordinate and implement preventive drug education to inform the young about the danger and consequences of drug abuse. The Government will do its part to educate and engage our juveniles and youths. However,the support of families and the community is critical. We all have a part to play in shaping the future of our next generation.