Belfast Telegraph

Poor parenting plays a big part in Northern Ireland crime level, survey claims

By Cate McCurry

Parents who are soft on their children have been named as one of the chief causes of crime in Northern Ireland.

Almost half of people cite a lack of discipline from mothers and fathers as a key reason behind criminality.

A survey by the Department of Justice found it was among the top three factors most commonly identified by people as a major driver of crime. It was cited by almost half (49%) of people - behind drugs (76%) and alcohol (58%) - as a leading factor.

Nearly one in five (19%) of respondents identified the lack of parental discipline as the single biggest cause.

The details emerged in a report published yesterday titled Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2016/17 Northern Ireland Crime Survey.

It throws the spotlight on the fear of crime in Northern Ireland communities.

Around 57% of those who took part thought that crime levels had increased in the last two years, even though they have actually dropped during that time.

Despite a lower prevalence of crime in the province, the survey revealed higher levels of worry about criminality here.

People expressed higher levels of worry about car crime (10%) compared to England and Wales (7%).

Violent crime was also a greater worry for people here (14%) compared to England and Wales (10%), the findings suggest.

Overall, 9% of respondents thought it was likely that they would be the victim of burglary, 9% believed they would experience some form of vehicle-related theft, while 6% perceived themselves to be at risk of violent crime.

Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said crime had an impact on their quality of life.

Some 23% claimed it had a moderate effect, while 4% said their quality of life was greatly affected by their fear of crime.

Victim Support chief executive Geraldine Hanna said: "We cannot dismiss the fact that nearly a quarter of respondents felt that the fear of crime had a moderate effect on their life, and another 6% have perceived themselves to be at risk of violent crime. The research also highlights a growing recognition within the general public of the effect societal issues such as addiction and anti-social behaviour can have on crime, and particularly the fear of crime.

"Victim Support NI has been encouraged by the justice system's approach to these societal issues with the establishment of problem-solving courts and enhanced combination orders.

"However, we would like to see a cross-department governmental approach in tackling these issues.

"All types of crime, when they are committed, can have an impact on the victim, both immediately and in the years ahead.

"Our services help those affected to feel supported, and we work closely with a wide range of agencies across Northern Ireland to ensure no one feels they are facing the consequences alone."

She said that in the last year, the charity offered support services to 61,241 victims and witnesses, and its volunteers delivered more than 16,000 hours of service.

The proportion of respondents who felt there was less crime in here rose between 2016 and 2017, from 10% to 14%.

Respondents are more positive in their perceptions of crime trends in their local area - 29% believe local crime levels increased in the previous two years, compared to 57% across Northern Ireland as a whole.

Dr John Topping, a criminology lecturer at Queen's University, said the public's perception of crime can often differ from reality.

As regards parental discipline, Dr Topping said: "There is no evidence that can connect how children are behaving, in terms of discipline from parents, and crime.

"I would suggest that it's part of a potential bigger issue where we are seeing significant cuts and closures of youth provision."

Dr Topping said the survey showed "a very significant disconnect" between the chances of being an actual victim of crime and people's perception that they will be.

He added: "We are statistically a much safer place than England and Wales, so there's less chance of being a victim of crime by virtue of living in Northern Ireland.

"The percentage of people who think there has been more crime over the last year in Northern Ireland and percentage of people who think there's more crime in their local area has decreased very significantly over the last 15 years."

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