Tackling youth crime

July 22, 2016

We must change our mindset on how to deal with young people who commit crime, The Salvation Army’s 614 Youth Coordinator Hayley Troemml-Wilson told a landmark Youth Summit today.

‘When young people end up committing crime we need to change our mindset about the effectiveness of punishment,’ Hayley told the summit, organised by Victorian chief commissioner of police, Graham Ashton, in response to escalating youth crime.

‘There is ample evidence that treatment doesn’t work in draconian lockup environments—at the end of a day, a ten-year-old committing a crime is still a ten-year-old, one who is seeking connection, validation and acceptance,’ Hayley explained.

Part of the problem is that we have socialised a culture of boys who have come to associate empathy and emotions as vulnerable or weak, resulting in repression of the very things that make us human,’ Hayley commented.

 ‘All too often we hear of youth offenders with terrible histories of abuse and we respond with “they should know right from wrong”. But when your environment has been grooming you to respond in violent ways, there is no opportunity to employ your rational empathetic brain when it has had little to no input over your lifespan. We expect these young people to be more respectful, compliant and well-behaved, but the reality is that hurt people, hurt (other) people,’ Hayley said.

Hayley said the answer is a whole of systems approach that is well-resourced, trauma-informed and aims to build connection rather than destroy it.

‘It is the responsibility of organisations such as mine, of governments, of schools, of community groups, of family, the media and the public to better understand and tackle this issue. We owe it to the young people I meet every day,’ Hayley concluded.

Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle said ‘It was a real honour to have had Hayley involved in the summit today. She brought a unique, compassionate, frontline perspective to the discussion. We are really proud of her work with the young people of inner-city Melbourne’.


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