Despite reports in recent years that teen delinquency has been on the decline, stop-and-frisks in New York City and similar police encounters in US drug enforcement operations appear to partly counter the reductions.
Publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead author Juan Del Toro explains the significance of his research team’s results:
April 8, 2018 — Four waves of longitudinal survey data demonstrate that contact with law enforcement predicts increases in black and Latino adolescents’ self-reported criminal behaviors 6, 12, and 18 months later. These results are partially mediated by psychological distress. The younger boys are when stopped for the first time, the stronger these relationships. Boys’ race and prior engagement in delinquent behaviors did not moderate the effect. These findings fill a gap in the research literature on labeling, life course, general strain, and deterrence theories. To our knowledge, the relationships among police contact, psychological strain, and subsequent criminal behavior for young boys had not been tested quantitatively before. These findings raise policy questions about the influence of proactive policing on the trajectory of children.
Teenage resentment increases with their treatment as criminals, irrespective of skin color. A similar resentment suffered by adults can spark a revolution, as it did in 1776 in relation to British Writs of Assistance. The good news is that in states with legal cannabis, police searches drop dramatically. A drop in delinquent behaviors can be expected to follow.