Particularities Of Prevention Programs Concerning Juvenile Delinquency


In this paper, we intend to approach the way in which the well-known, three levels of crime prevention (primary, secondary and tertiary) retain or, on the contrary, diminish their relevance when confronted with the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency. Firstly, we will delineate shortly the purpose of crime prevention in its threefold composition and identify those policies and normative measures needed for its realization. Secondly, we’ll discuss the mandatory character of models of crime prevention that target juvenile delinquency seeing that early age is the best opportunity for interventions against offending pursuits. But is the age gap the only reason of differentiating between adult criminality and juvenile delinquency with the aim of preventing and staving off dangerous, deviant habits? The other striking distinction between the two social realms of criminality concerns the motivation that stirs the person into committing actual offences: while the adult offender seeks material gains and profits, the youth delinquent takes the path towards criminality because of psychological or social reasons. Therefore, juvenile delinquency, by its particular characteristics, requires certain changes or new additions to the crime prevention programs already in place. Drawing out how society responds to its young offenders by reshaping and bending crime prevention to their own needs, will be addressed in the last part of this paper.

Keywords: Crime preventionlevels and modelsjuvenile delinquencypolicy


The most important way of fighting against delinquency in general and juvenile delinquency in particular is to prevent them. Prevention refers to those actions that suppress or limit the causes of offences at different levels and in various degrees by rendering their execution impossible.

The 13th of the UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice states an important goal: “to assist civil society organizations in terms of awareness raising and educational projects in crime prevention” emphasising the important role of crime prevention in the field of criminal justice (Doha Civil Society Forum Declaration, 2015). This statement is consistent with World report on violence and health (2002) priorities which underlined that investing in strategies for the prevention of interpersonal violence is a moral imperative and also makes sound scientific, economic, political and social sense.

According to the Alliance of Crime Prevention and Crime Justic e (, crime prevention is “any initiative or policy which reduces or eliminates the aggregate level of victimization or the risk of individual criminal participation” ( This includes government and community based programs with the purpose of reducing the incidence of risk factors correlated with criminal participation.

Effective crime prevention can be considered any action that generates the reduction of the criminal activity, focussing on the causes of crime rather than its effects, with the goal of consistently reducing or eliminate the causes that lead to crimes (AIC, 2003).

Problem Statement

From the point of view of the action and its perpetrator, the model of crime prevention can be approached from three perspectives. The first one concerns the offender, while the second the victim. The third takes into account the occasions and opportunities that make possible for the offence to be committed. Peril wise, all three levels of dealing with crimes can be differentiated according to new levels: one can speak of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention models (Van Dijk, 1990).

Research Questions

Primary prevention envisages those actions which enhance the feeling of security of the population, ameliorate the chances of social integration and put on breaks to social deviancy. Only at this level can the difference between the forms and degrees of deviancy be established. Since there are no mandatory differences pertaining to the way of victim prevention, respectively delinquent prevention, the intervention takes place in an early stage. According to social policies, the institutional and political solutions are devised here. Also at this level, but with concern to individual phenomena, reactions appear in response to those signals which indicate different tendencies of negative behaviour, susceptibility, injury and social danger. Frequent absences from school, vagrancy, the circle of friends who fosters bad behaviour, the habit of alcohol consumption, long periods of unemployment, close relationships that endanger moral development and other such factors can set off the need for intervention (Müller-Fabian, 2015). During prevention and taking into account the danger towards citizen rights and the possibility of causing stigmatization effects, the depth of the intervention must be limited to helping and assisting acts. From the point of view of criminal opportunities, primary prevention refers to those technical and organizational solutions which, in contrast with the premises of offenses – in cases of sufficient extension -, carry out a relative protection. As a country can have safety and technique operational regulations for preventing fires, floods or earthquakes, likewise it can be conceived such a set of regulations for diminishing crime opportunities; for example, concerning money circulation, street traffic, civil engineering, protection of material goods, city planning, etc. The free market encourages those services and investment possibilities whose use and purchase lead to a real decrease of the social danger feeling of the population. The national network of these commerce and service activities belongs to the infrastructure of primary prevention (Müller-Fabian, 2016).

For young people, but not only, primary prevention address individual and family level factors correlated with later criminal participation. Individual level factors which can contribute to the decrease of the probability of criminal involvement can be: attachment to school, involvement in pro-social activities, etc. Family level factors such as consistent parenting skills also reduce individual level risk. Risk factors are additive in nature, therefore, the greater the existent number of risk factors, the greater the risk of criminal involvement.

To develop the strategy and tactic of prevention, it is mandatory to collect and give access to the members of society to the information about the real social danger of certain actions, about what is happening with the victims or the perpetrators of crimes, about the ways of avoiding them and the instruments available for prevention.

Regarding secondary prevention, there is a difference in strategy between doer and victim, but the boundaries are not rigidly drawn because the intervention possibilities are easily interlocked or interlaced. Many times it is possible for the same person to be registered in the penal system as a victim, and then as an offender. This may be the case especially with regard to violent crimes and classical offences against material goods. Therefore, prevention encompasses those institutional reactions that are prescribed for those who find themselves in dangerous zones or commit mild offences: the drug addict, the alcoholic, the youngster with a family history entrenched in delinquency; likewise, those who repeatedly neglect or abuse social rules as a way of life. Secondary prevention is needed when there is a serious suspicion that, if the opportunity arises, an offence will be committed. Although the imminent peril is more concrete than in primary prevention, the interventions brought about during secondary prevention cannot be coercive. The measures taken in order to diminish the consequences of triggering causes must, nevertheless, be decisive, adequate to the wanted goal, and in certain situations they may contain elements of constraint, as when the parental supervision is revoked and the child is placed into a state institution or when a procedure is under way in the aftermath of rules infringement.

To determine the circle of potential victims at the level of secondary prevention entails social experiences. Accordingly, special attention will be put upon companies that perform “dangerous” actions and upon their employees (for example, bank clerks, policemen, traders and merchants, pharmacists, mail workers). This kind of personnel must acquire, along with the rules of their profession, also the knowledge of how to resist committing offences. The most frequent victims of crime are those more easily exposed to harm, like women, children, the elder population, mobility- and mentally-challenged persons; they need special protection against offenders. Their defence possibilities can be augmented by appropriation of knowledge about the real danger of certain situations.

For young people, secondary prevention refers to techniques focused on at risk situations such as youth who are dropping out of school, getting involved in gangs etc. It also refers to developing adecquate available social programs and law enforcement into neighbourhoods where crime rates are high. Examples of successful secondary crime prevention programs can be found in the work of the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, available on

Concerning the deflation of delinquent opportunities, the model of secondary prevention comprises the concrete tactic of interventions according to the territory parcelled out between zones of social danger. In a country, city or region, prevention can grow proportionally with the assimilation of prevention knowledge. Secondary prevention is needed where the “infectiousness”, in general or particularly with regard to certain offences, exceeds the national mean of the country. According to the crime map there is an action plan elaborated in order to prevent offences. If in a certain area of the city, the leisure places, pubs and bars create problems, then the police and constabulary could boost its security-related measures or the opening hours of the trouble-making institutions could be limited. If the number of car thefts increases during the night, there could be organized efficient tailing activities by the civil defence, neighbours and police (Ekblom, 2002).

Sometimes, simple, at-hand solutions can prove to be especially effective for enhancing the safety feeling of the population. For example, appropriate street lighting serves not only for securing street brightness, but also for heightening the general safety of citizens; moreover, it helps increase the price of the buildings from that area (Welsh & Farrington, 2008).

Decreasing crime opportunities through secondary prevention pertains not only to territories, but also to certain branches of activities from those areas. Consequently, secondary prevention provides targeted and concrete answers to criminal activity.

Tertiary prevention comprises the institutional reactions occasioned by the offense and is directed towards the perpetrator, the victim and those places deemed most dangerous (“hot spot” areas). It draws up the concrete, direct mechanisms of disposing of the possibilities of re-offending (Van Dijk, 2008).

Primary and secondary prevention uses complex social policies; tertiary prevention, and especially the institutional feedback with regard to offenders and victims, criss-crosses the classical tenets of the criminal law. In scholarly circles, there is talk about whether the criminal law plays a role in the general system of crime prevention. According to Szabó (1992), the criminal law is the mean of oppression and repression of delinquency. In order to safeguard the validity of norms, there is need for repression even if the “miraculous” way of preventing the offence might have been found. For Farkas (1994), through its mere presence, the criminal law exercises its social function: it demands that committing an offense trigger the responsibility of the offender and that during his/her punishment society’s values be confirmed and consolidated. But even this narrow function of the criminal law contains possibilities for crime prevention. Maintaining and enforcing norms, which constitute the express purview of the criminal law, develop also a preventive action by themselves. In a country with such a policy of criminal law, carrying out an offense is much riskier.

Deployment of tertiary programs of prevention targets special conditions or areas deemed unstable, favourable to offences, in order to decrease crime opportunities. When serious crimes spread around with speed, or in times of social disorder and natural catastrophes, there is need for measures that can restore public order and security. In other words, tertiary prevention is used after a crime has occurred in order to prevent successive incidents. We can see such tertiary measures of prevention in the implementation of new security measures after a terrorist attack (see use of electronic devices during flight or security measures after September 11, 2001 etc.).

In parallel, provisional and temporary programs must be devised and put in practice to help consolidate the situation without using coercive means, to prevent the extension of harmful criminal processes and to control and eliminate their damages (Gönczöl et al., 1999).

While recognizing and emphasizing the relevance of crime prevention, the best program, built according to the most modern principles, will enhance the elements of control and limitation of crime only if there is also an adequate social, educational and occupational policy sustained and enforced by the institutional system. It must be stressed that any strategy of crime prevention, irrespective of how well organized, cannot replace but only complete the rest of the programs and institutions that “control” deviance.

Purpose of the Study

When developing efficient prevention programs, the particularities of adult delinquency and juvenile delinquency should be seriously taken into consideration. Adult delinquency is organized in view of fulfilling the profit motivation and it can be hard to prevent. Societies obtain at best an equilibrium in this regard, sacrificing important social values in the process. In contradistinction, juvenile delinquency is not primarily driven by profit, although the majority of juvenile offences aim at gaining material benefits (Fabian, 2010). A way of life that breaks the rules, deviant socialization, groups hostile to culture, disorganization (Greenwood et al., 2005) and disturbances of intra-familial relationships (Fletcher et al., 2004), personality disorders (Underwood & Washington, 2016) – these play the most important role in juvenile delinquency. Therefore, a special emphasis should be put upon youth re-socialization and crime prevention.

According to Queloz (1991), there are three outstanding elements that must be dealt with when devising prevention programs for juvenile delinquency: the goal of the intervention (what is there to be protected), the functions of intervention (how to intervene), and the pedagogical aim of the intervention (the socially-established responsibilities). In the table below, these elements are approached clearly:

Table 1 -
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At a global, world-wide level, specialists insist upon the national and contextual character of these intervention programs, freight with particularities and distinct traits: “Their content must be elaborated starting with the realities of every country, without replicating foreign models or solutions, which can act like a rough guide but cannot answer adequately to the needs and resources from a particular country that are defined by national, specific features” (Grecu, Rădulescu, 2003, p. 407).

Grecu and Rădulescu (2003) propose the following special, preventive programs of juvenile delinquency: Prevention programs based on the mobilization of community efforts (clinical programs of orientation and guidance of minors with special problems; regional programs of juvenile delinquency prevention; associations formed by youth and adults as modalities of prevention) and Intervention programs in support of the families with children at risk.

The first set of prevention programs envisages the following treatments applied to juvenile offenders: provisional release under certain conditions and before term; arrest of judgement when the conditions of good behaviour are met, followed by supervision and monitoring by a probation officer. Moreover, there are communitarian prevention programs that work very well in areas with a high rate of crimes committed by minors. They develop special services, such as social work, psycho-social counselling, etc. The latest programs enjoy a better chance of success because the natural environment of the community is more suitable to prevention than the institutional milieu (Yablonsky, 2000).

The second set of prevention programs pertains to intervention programs in support of the families with children at risk. The majority of research with regard to juvenile delinquency highlights the socialization process as an important source of both blocking and fostering criminal behaviour. Family constitutes an essential element in the research which speaks about a continuum of the individual’s development toward and into criminality, as well as in the research that claims the contrary, that is that during socialization, a change in behaviour can take place at any moment either towards crime, or towards conformity to social norms. In both cases, family is an important factor (Müller-Fabian, 2015).

Many studies, have established a relationship between family structures and environment with juvenile delinquency (Greenwood et al., 2005, Anderson, 2002, Larson, Swyers & Larson, 1995, Harper & McLanahan, 2004, Fabian, 2010, Müller-Fabian, 2015).

On the basis of these models, the afore-mentioned authors claim that the strongest predictors of juvenile delinquency are the following: parental supervision, parental rejection and involvement in the parent-child relationship. A moderate power of prediction has the following factors: conjugal relationships, parental criminality. Finally, the lowest predictors are: parental discipline, parental health and parental absence.

In the United States of America were applied several experimental programs with regard to intervention in support of families with children at risk. For example: Intervention program for families with children at risk in order to reduce the depth and intensity of pre- or delinquent behaviours (Farrington, 1994); Intervention program applied to families expecting a baby or who have very small children (Lally, Mangione, Honig, 1988); Intervention program in support of families with adolescents with pre- or delinquent behaviours (Patterson,, 1982); Intervention program, type “family therapy”, targeted to families with children at risk (Alexander & Parsons, 1973); Intervention program applied in schools with the aim of reducing absenteeism, dropping out of school and the appeal of delinquent groups (Greenwood & et al., 1996).

In Canada two types of intervention programs were implemented: Family-based Programs for Preventing and reducing Juvenile crime (parental training programs; family therapy programs & integrated approach programs) and Integrated Approach Programs. The results of these programs proved, that that intervention with families can effectively reduce the risk of juvenile delinquency (Wasserman et al., 2000).

Early intervention and prevention programs in family and parenting support were implemented also in Europe: The Parenting Shop, Flanders and Brussels, Belgium (Eurochild, 2012); The Centre for Youth and Families (CJG) and SPIL Centres in Eindhoven, The Netherlands (Kernan, 2012); ‘Familienzentren’ (family centres) in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany (Stöbe-Blossey, 2008); Family support programme in Stenungsund, Sweden (Nordic Council of Ministers 2011); Good Parent-Good Start (Dobry Rodzic – Dobry Start), Warsaw, Poland (Warsaw Council, 2010); The Parents’ House, Brest, France (2009; Eurochild, 2012); Il Melograno, “Accogliere la Nascita” (Upholding Birth), Rome, Italy (Unicef, 2008); Bultzatzen – Promoting Success, Spain (Santibáñez & Maiztegui, 2013); The Development of Early Intervention focused Family Support Hubs in Northern Ireland, UK (Children and Young Peoples Strategic Partner, 2011); Programme to prevent children from being separated from their families, Romania (Hope and Homes for Children Romania, 2001); Home-improvement loans for low-income families and families at risk, Bulgaria (Eurochild, 2012); Neath Port Talbot Family Action Support Team (FAST), UK - Wales (Action for Children, 2011).

Results of these intervention programs demonstrated that the most effective prevention programs target population presenting several risk factors at once, and the more complete a program is and the more it involves several services, the better the changes of success (Eurochild, 2012).

There were many other intervention programs conducted in USA and Europe, but I just enumerated several of them in order to highlight the main objective of intervention programs that might persuade the responsible institutions to adhere to it in the future. These could be a starting point for developing good intervention programs in Romania.

Research Methods

Our paper tries to outline the most important approaches of juvenile delinquency prevention methods as they emerge from the study of literature in the field of interest. Starting with the findings that can be useful for adults delinquency prevention programs, we analysed which are the appropriate particularities for juvenile delinquency prevention programs.


The interlocking of different deviant behaviours is visible especially at the level of juvenile delinquency because in law-breaking, youth behaviour an important factor is played by alcohol and drugs consumption. They cause frequently psychopathological states and there lies also the serious danger of suicide because suicide attempts are often the case in youth with alcohol and/or drugs intake. Therefore, from the point of view of deviant behaviours, the early appreciation of the factors that lead to deviance is a form of primary prevention, while re-socialization is deemed secondary prevention. In juvenile delinquency, a top spot is taken by the re-education and rehabilitation of offenders, respectively by the education in view of prevention of those put in danger by the youth’s actions. Both therapeutically and preventively, psycho- and socio-therapeutic methods are being used. In industrialized, developed societies, there is a complicated system of institutions which deals with juvenile offenders, but their results are not especially encouraging. These methods cannot counteract the life style of the child or adolescent, the informational environment from the institutions concerned and the socializing effect of reference deviant groups.

Re-socialization is much more efficient if the forces of community are allowed to rally around the youth delinquent. If the local community becomes involved in the re-socialization of juvenile offenders, if several organizations of volunteers offer their help, if the family and relatives take a sustained interest in their child and are willing to put in the effort long time, then the rate of success and efficiency of re-socialization would be certainly higher. But, in general, the re-socialization of youngsters who already committed different offences presents numerous challenges to all involved, is very expensive and takes a lot of time. For these reasons, the main attention should be on crime prevention.


Prevention in the field of juvenile delinquency is, nevertheless, difficult to impart. There are special forms of education, particularly for the groups of youngsters in peril (most frequently in schools, sometimes in youth hostels or communitarian centres or religious institutions); or there is an attempt to offer them alternative reference groups. Seeing that the majority of juvenile offenders are boys, the motives of crimes are related to their masculine role and the development of their identity; likewise, because of their heightened mobility and excitability at a young age, they receive offers of active and interesting occupational programs. In a similar fashion, there are available for girls group educational activities, role playing, development of communicative and social capability with a preventive aim. Those who bear the responsibility of dealing with youth groups should try to offer examples to imitate or follow; they must have mature personalities.

A good prevention program entails to take into account the pyscho-hygiene of youth, to bolster intra-familial socialization, to enhance the positive effect of socializing in schools and other educational institutions. All these measures should be completed by a social policy centred on family.


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28 June 2018

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Müller-Fabian, A., & Baciu, C. (2018). Particularities Of Prevention Programs Concerning Juvenile Delinquency. In V. Chis, & I. Albulescu (Eds.), Education, Reflection, Development – ERD 2017, vol 41. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 769-778). Future Academy.