Girls & Crime

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There was once a saying that girls were made from sugar, spice, and everything nice; however, today’s female youth would hardly fit that description in accordance with the views of law enforcement agencies, politicians, community members, and the media. According to these sources, the female youth is made of aggression, violent behaviour, and sexual indecencies that would explain the reason for the increasing conflict the female youth is having with the justice system. Female youth who come into conflict with the law have recently received a large amount of attention from the media, academics, and policy-makers. While the media portray a stereotype of the "new violent girl", academics argue over how we should study, research, and conceptualize young female offenders. Concurrently, policy-makers and experts also struggle to accommodate the increasing number of young females who come into the care of the youth justice system, a system allegedly designed by and for males (Reitsma-Street, 1991). In the end, we are left with the media's depiction of the violent girl, academics' concern for the neglected and victimized female youth within a patriarchal system, and the frustration of policy-makers over the lack of detailed and accurate information on young females (Corrado, Odgers, & Irwin, 2000). Most research offering explanations for increase in crime among females has largely focused on men as males were the majority law breakers. The introduction and increase of females into the criminal justice posed as a unique issue for policy makers, correctional facility administrators, police, and governments. However, all of these extensions of the justice system views girls as out of control and needing punishment in order to keep all that is good and moral in society intact. In order to provide an accurate understanding of where the idea of this “rise in crime” ideology originated, the whole paradigm of girls violence, victimization, history, and interaction with the media, justice, system, and police must be scrutinized in depth from within the system and what the system fails to address as well. THE MEDIA

Decontextualizing Crime
The media plays an important role in providing vast amounts of information to millions of readers who then can be often misguided by the “facts” described to them in news reports. News headlines related to crime account for almost 70% of news stories and major reports, with violent crime being over reported and crimes such as theft, or drug trafficking are under reported. Unusual and sensational crime stories occupy a disproportionate amount of time and space in the news. Random crimes receive more coverage than crimes among people who are known to one another. Crimes with famous perpetrators and sensitive victims get more coverage than do the more common crimes among average or marginalized people (Wallace, 2008).

There are many ways in which the media instils the notion of the ‘increasing crime wave panic’ among readers; the most common term used by criminologists is decontextualization. That is, the media represents crime news in such a way by using certain crime stories that invokes within the reader emotions such as fear, anger, and outrage against the perpetrators of these crimes. In her study victimhood and the media, Moira Peelo describes this type of decontextualization as the ‘mediated witness’. Using homicide as an example, Peelo describes how newspapers can contribute to the construction of the ‘social commentary’ generated through a stylised dialogue made up of a collection of authorial techniques that attempt to align the reader emotionally with the victim. These techniques or ‘mediated witness,’ frames events in such a way that the newspaper reader is invited to share closely in the story of the crime by ‘identifying with the emotions of those have been hurt.’ In this way, the offence that has taken place, is able to pass into the cultural and social awareness of the...
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