NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Kids Say Crimes O.K.

May 2, 1996

Half of California kids ages 10 to 14 claim they have broken laws and 44 percent admit to breaking school rules, according to a survey of 600 youths throughout the state by the California Bar Association. But only 1 percent of the preteens are involved in gangs, using hard drugs or carrying guns.

The study found that many children have misconceptions about the law:

  • According to 17 percent of the kids, it is legal to beat or hit a family member; 17 percent don't think it is illegal to break into someone's locker; and 16 percent think it's legal for minors to smoke cigarettes.
  • About 10 percent believe it is legal for minors to keep or store stolen goods, carry a gun and drink alcohol.
  • And 10 percent think it is OK to break the law for revenge.

One in ten had skipped school, smoked cigarettes and shoplifted. However, almost all the youngsters understand that shoplifting, buying drugs, using marijuana and carrying a concealed weapon are illegal. And some 68 percent say they would like to see laws passed against joining a gang.

Many of the children saw no connection between breaking the law and consequences, according to the Bar Association.

Source: Leslie Goldberg (San Francisco Examiner), "Half of Youths Surveyed Have Broken the Law," Houston Chronicle, May 2, 1996.


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