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1.0 Background to the Study 

The persistence and rise of crime continues to damage the social fabric of the society especially in the country’s’ urban areas. Crime is not a new phenomenon both locally and internationally but the intensity and nature of crime is different within different borders. Crime also does not distinguish between the developed and developing countries such as Kenya which continue to grapple with the effects of increased incidences of criminal activities in its urban areas. An emerging trend of crime in the urban areas reflects an increase in youth participation in violent criminal activities which has been associated with the rising unemployment rates among the youth which is far more explicit in urban areas. Onoge (1988) in Adebayo (2013) perceives crime as dysfunctional as it threatens the stability of society and it is therefore, a social problem that requires a concerted effort towards finding a lasting solution to it. It undermines the social fabric by eroding the sense of safety and security    

Urbanization, especially in the developing world, has been accompanied by increased levels of crime, violence and lawlessness. The growing violence and feeling of insecurity that city dwellers are facing daily is one of the major challenges around the world. The world’s population is becoming increasingly urban, and three-quarters of the urban population growth occurs in developing countries. Global studies show that 60% of all urban residents in developing countries have been victims of crime, at least once over the past five years, 70% of them in Latin America and Africa. Majority of these crimes are committed by the youth as Salagaev (2003) reports that the number of young people who committed crimes rose from 80 million in 1992 to 150 million in 2000. In 2005, individuals under the age of 25 accounted for nearly 45% of all arrests for violent crimes and 50% of arrests for murder (Watson-Thompson, Fawcett & Schultz, 2008).

There are various reasons that have been identified as influencing youth involvement in criminal activities. Prior and Paris (2005) find that most of the youth are in crime because of poverty, which drove them into criminal acts for survival; Maseko (2009) points to youth peer pressure and rebellion against parental authority; Erickson (2001) observes that drugs also lead the youth to crime; Ojo (2012) lists broken homes and low education attainment as leading to criminal activities. Agbor, Taiwo and Smith (2012) contend that youth in Africa hold great potential as drivers for economic growth through participation in labor markets and also as consumers. However, a large youth population that is not gainfully employed can also be a liability, further undermining growth prospects. Salagaev (2003) and Muhammad (2008) agree it is primarily the outcome of multiple adverse social, economic and family conditions.

Awoundo (1993) in Ndikaru (2011) distinguishes between crime which is of deviant behaviour that is considered not to be a serious threat to group life and therefore tolerated; and deviance involving behaviour that is perceived to threaten the group life and needs to be punished. In modern society such behaviour is in contraventions of the penal code of the state and is referred to as crimes. According to Oculi and Mwaguri (2006), crime is a violation of criminal law from which formal penalties are applied by some government authority. In East Africa, the crime scenario is slightly different and has a spatial differentiation component. In Tanzania, for example, it has been noted that Dar-es-Salaam has a slightly different crime typology compared to the South and West African cities. 

According to Gimode (2001) there has been an increase in violent crime in Africa. This crime is mainly related to the increased intensity and complexity of urbanization. Obviously, specific features of urbanization have particularly contributed to the growth of criminal violence. Cairo, Lagos and Johannesburg are the cities that feature most prominently in literature on violent crime in Africa (Albert, 1998 in Gimode, 2001). There are other cities, however, whose violent crime rate is equally or relatively high or is fast becoming so. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is one of those cities.

According to the Institute of Security Studies (2004), crime is not different from the other parts of Africa and according to Starvrou (2002), crime levels in Nigeris are similar to those in Johannesburg and Dar-es-Salaam. Ndikaru (2011) found that the common type of crimes committed included robbery (90%), burglary (85%) mugging (84%), drug abuse (82%) assault (79%) and murder (65%), robbery with violence (62%), pickpocketing (54%), sexual offences (37%), arson attacks (26%), kidnapping (11%) and carjacking (9%). high levels of youth unemployment, poverty and indulgence in drugs were singled out as the main causes. A report by the Security Research and Information Centre (2011) found the most common type of crime among Nairobi residents were theft (31.5%) robbery (30.6%) break-ins (28.8%) assault (3.6%) and domestic violence (3.6%). The report further mentions that it is significant to note that the three most common crime types are property crimes. For example, a total of 13 out of 30 cases reported in the newspapers in the months of November and December 2011 were robbery cases.

A report by The National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) shows that Niger State is controlled by up to 14 organized criminal gangs, which terrorize residents for ransom. Most of these gangs operate in informal settlement areas where policing is poor. These gangs earn their funding through extortion from the public, stealing, robbery, politicians, and selling of stolen goods, a government report shows (Ombati, 2013). Majority of the gangs are involved in armed robbery, drug trafficking, vehicle theft and trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, money laundering, theft of antiques, livestock theft and loan sharking in order of merit. The report also identifies business people who need protection, illegal levies, group member’s contributions, drug trafficking, hijacking and piracy, terrorism, rent collection, government officials and family members as part of the sources of their funds (Ombati, 2013). 

The majority of the population in the informal settlements is under 22 years of age (Kabiru et al., 2013). Despite their numbers, young people have been marginalized and excluded from the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of socioeconomic initiatives in Kenya. Since empowering young people calls for a consideration of the forces that entice them into crime and violence, a significant number of studies have been conducted in numerous African cities to explore the plight of young people in urban settings, the extent and nature of those problems, and the urgency for widespread and concerted action (Ansell, 2005). The high rate of urbanization in Kenya has reduced the government’s ability to adequately provide for the urban population in terms of schooling facilities as well as other infrastructure (Mugisha, 2006).

According to the UN-Habitat (2004) increasing youth crime has serious implications, particularly in Africa where over two thirds of many cities’ populations are between the ages of 12 and 25. Most of these young people live in informal settlements without basic facilities, services and security. Crime statistics reveal that as of 2005 crime rates in Kenya were going down. However, reports indicate that the Kenyan people still have a general feeling of insecurity (United Nations, 2004). In Kenya, as in many other countries, young people are viewed as being – and are frequently among – the main perpetrators of crime. Over 50 percent of all convicted criminals in Kenya are young males aged between 16 and 25. As is the case in other African countries, most crimes committed by young people in Kenya is financially motivated (United Nations, 2004).

1.1 Statement of the Problem

The phenomenon of crime in Niger State has been in existence since the post-independence era and has been gradually increasing as the urban area population continues to grow at a quicker pace than rural areas as a consequence of rural to urban migration. The past and present governments have continued to adopt different approaches and strategies to counter the ever-rising incidences of crime in major urban centers. Despite such measures as community policing, rehabilitation and employment creation the problem of crime and criminal activities continue to fester in the social fabric of the urban areas. According to

IEA’s Youth Research Compendium, a person aged between 16 and 25 years commits one crime in every two crimes reported to police. In 2007/2008 Fiscal Year, some 89,770 crimes were reported. Out of these, 48,710 (54 %) were committed by youth in that age bracket. Police reports also show involvement in violent crime by youth just entering their teens. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2012) there was an increase in crime reported from 61,826 to 73,786 in the period 2008-2011.  

The involvement of youth in criminal activities also reflects the change in dynamics of crime that are committed in urban areas. There is also evidence of research on youth crime which include Omboto, Ondiek, Odera and Ayugi (2012) qualitative study on factors influencing youth crime and juvenile delinquency and Tume (2010) study on factors influencing urban crime focus on Lagos. Makokha (2008) found that incarcerated criminals were based in urban areas where there were more opportunities for participating in criminal activities. There has been increased use of weapons in the commission of crimes among the youth in the recent past which has been associated with violent tendencies towards victims. For instance, between the November and December 2011, 11 incidences involved use of firearms mainly pistols and rifles. Similarly a total of 5 pistols, 1 toy pistol, 2 rifles and 96 ammunition were recovered in those firearms-related incidents within the two months covered by the newspaper reports compared to 28 pistols, 1 toy pistol, 8 rifles and 287 ammunitions recovered from January – October 2010 as reported in the police report (Kenya Police, 2010). 

The study hopes to report on the participation of youth which include gender differences in armed crime as specified as robbery with violence in urban areas as they represent the highest incidences of criminal activities in Suleja. The study shed light on the perceptions of urban youth on the intentions to participate in armed robbery, the types of crime that youth today are involved in given the dynamic nature of the society and technology and also provide a synopsis of the approaches and strategies adopted ton mitigate youth indulgence in armed robbery and to what impact they have had on society. The study also seeks to establish the reasons why urban youths especially in slum areas are more likely to be involved in robbery with violence as compared to those in affluent or rural areas. 

1.3 Research Objectives

1.3.1 Main Objective 

The main objective of the study was to identify the factors influencing gender differential involvement in robbery with violence in urban areas.

1.3.2 Specific Objectives

I.                  To determine the types of criminal activities that different gender is involved in Suleja, Niger State 

II.               To determine the influence of socio-demographic (Gender)  factors on participation in crime in Suleja, Niger State 

III.            To identify approaches and strategies adopted to reduce youth participation in crime in Suleja, Niger State

1.4 Research Questions

The study sought to answer the following questions;

I.                  What types of criminal activities are youth involved in?

II.               What is the influence of socio-demographic (Gender) involvement in crime?

III.            What approaches and strategies are adopted to reduce youth crime?

1.5 Justification for the Study 

Despite efforts by the government, civil society and the international community to address runaway crime, available (police-sourced) statistical evidence point to a growing spike in crime commission across the country. The offenders are relatively younger individuals who participate in armed criminal activities exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms and weapons. The youth are the most important resource for the nation in order to achieve the Vison 2030, therefore involvement in crime diminishes the number of productive youth in the economy thereby endangering the achievement of the nations’ development plan. 

The nation depends greatly on tourism as a significant contributor to the gross domestic product. The increase in crime in the metropolitan areas where majority of the large hotels are puts the tourism and hospitality sector at risk as more and more tourists avoid the urban centers due to increased cases of armed robbery. This has a negative impact on tourism rates thereby affecting employment opportunities for those employed in the sector both directly and indirectly. There is need therefore to explore the factors contributing youth involvement in violent crime in the low urban setting environment in order to mitigate the increasing cases of violent crime in Suleja, Niger State. 

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study 

Suleja was identified as the research site for the study as it has a high number of youth and also exhibits high incidences of criminal activities among its youth population. The study investigated the demographic factors of age, gender, level of education and employment status. The study also focused on responses from the youth in Suleja and the administration officers in the Ward who work in the security sector and who work with the youth. 

1.7 Definition of significant terms 

Crime – Refers to illegal activities that cause harm to others and other peoples’ property. 

Robbery with violence – This is the commission of crime which often involves use of weapons to inflict injury or fatality to victims.

Urban - Refers to areas that have a higher population of 2,000 or more which also has access to most basic services such as schools, medical facilities and recreation facilities.  

Youth – Refers to any individual between the ages of 18 – 35 

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