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‘Proactive Policing’ Could Be Turning Young People Into Criminals

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“Directing officers to make contact with individual boys and young men in ‘high-crime‘ areas may impose a terrible cost.”

Say you’re an adolescent male, and while casually strolling through the streets of your neighborhood, you get stopped by a cop. He asks where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, and who you’ve been hanging out with. He then sternly warns you to stay out of trouble before driving off.

You might think such stops would help deter antisocial behavior. In fact, new research suggests quite the opposite.

In a study featuring high school-age black, Latino, and mixed-race males in a major American city, researchers found that those who had experienced such a face-to-face encounter with the police subsequently engaged in more acts of juvenile delinquency, such as theft and vandalism, than those who had not.

This pattern—based on the kids’ self-reports—was true even for boys who had rarely participated in delinquent behavior before the stop. The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that this behavior may be a result of the mental and emotional distress such encounters can create.

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Thanks !

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