VIII. Reducing the Likelihood That Individuals Will Respond to Strains with Crime
Although we can do much to reduce the exposure of individuals to strains conducive to crime, it is unlikely that we can entirely eliminate such exposure. For that reason, it is also important to reduce the likelihood that individuals respond to strains with crime. Several programs in this area have shown some success in reducing crime. One set of programs attempts to improve the coping skills and resources of individuals. For example, individuals may be taught problem- solving and social skills, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be able to develop and implement legal methods for dealing with their strains. To illustrate, individuals may be taught how to respond in a legal manner if they are harassed by peers. On a related note, individuals may be taught methods for better managing their anger.
Individuals also may be provided with increased levels of social support. For example, they might be assigned mentors who provide assistance in coping. Also, a range of government assistance programs may be developed to help individuals cope when they face strains such as long-term unemployment, homelessness, and discrimination in the job market. Beyond that, steps may be taken to increase the level of social control to which individuals are subject. For example, parent training programs can increase the bond between parent and children and improve parental supervision. Also, school-based programs can raise academic performance and improve student–teacher relations. These programs reduce the likelihood that individuals will engage in criminal coping, because such coping is more likely to result in punishment, and individuals have more to lose if they are punished.
Programs may also be used to reduce association with criminal peers and alter beliefs that encourage criminal coping. For example, certain programs have shown some success in altering beliefs that are favorable to drug use. Unfortunately, it has been more difficult to convince individuals to quit juvenile gangs or stop associating with their delinquent friends. Some progress is being made, however.