The geographies of young people, crime and social exclusion
Recent crime and disorder strategies, formulated in response to the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act, are structured around a multi-agency approach to preventing youth offending. This thesis critically examines the relationships between young people and the ‘place-based’ focus of the district-wide crime and disorder partnerships and their associated youth crime prevention projects. New Labour’s response to youth crime emphasises the re-establishment of social ties between young people and their ‘communities’, the development of social capital and the move towards socially inclusive strategies. Since 1999, young people, aged between 13 and 16 years, living in 70 ‘high crime’ neighbourhoods have been targeted by the Youth Justice Board’s Youth Inclusion Programmes (YIPs). Two projects located in neighbourhoods in south and west Leeds have formed the casestudies of this research. In Bradford, the research was supplemented by an additional project, the Prince’s Trust Volunteers (PTV), which worked with socially marginalised young people, aged between 16 and 25 years. This thesis offers valuable and contextualised insights into young people’s everyday geographies and social lives. Drawing on qualitative data gathered through ethnography, participant observation, focus groups and interviewing, the research develops understandings of the multiple, yet contested, meanings that young people attached to idea(l)s of ‘community’ and relates these to wider notions of social inclusion, social capital and citizenship. The findings demonstrate that many young people presently identified by agencies to be at risk of crime did not see themselves as ‘socially excluded’. Instead they firmly placed themselves in the micro-scale social networks of family and friends that structured both their interpretations of ‘inclusion’ and ‘community’. Young people’s interpretations of these same concepts were however fragmented and exposed underlying social tensions between themselves and other neighbourhood residents. The research is timely and produces a situated critique of interpretations of ‘inclusion’, ‘exclusion’ and ‘community’ held by both young people and partnership agencies, a consideration o f the policy implications of New Labour’s approach to preventing youth crime, and a sensitive appreciation of the relationships between young people, ‘community’ and place.