In modern society, juvenile crimes are problems that many security and judicial systems overlook. The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a story of 11 years old boy called Robert Sandifer, also known as “Yummy” for his love of cookies, who was involved in crime and later murdered by older gang members in 1994. The youngster was a member of a Chicago, Illinois street gang whose death attracted nationwide attention and appeared in headlines of the American News Papers and broadcasting channels. His criminal activities were influenced by life situations and can be explained using three theories of crime. This paper is a traces the life of Robert Sandifer, reasons for choosing gang life and related theories, and why the US legal system and Child protective services failed him.
Yummy was born on 12th March 1983. His mother, Lorina Sandifer, had more than thirty arrests and charged with prostitution, some which she dealt with drugs. Robert's father, Akins, was away for all of the boy’s life as a result of imprisonment for a gun charge offense. According to the child well-being specialists, Sandifer was at risk, harshly abused and disregarded. The US Department of Children Family Services (DCFS) knew Robert when he was nearly three years old. His mother always blamed the father for cigarette bruise on the child's body although the government later learned that the father was never involved in taking care of Sandifer. The children's department (DCFS) relocated the children from their mother's home to the grandparent's which hosted approximately 19 children. In school, “Yummy” bullied fellow children and stole money from them and other Roseland neighbors. At the age of 8 years, Sandifer dropped out of school and started a new street life where he broke into houses and stole cars from the residents.
In 1993, the government sent him and the siblings to Lawrence Hall DCFS home for correction and rehabilitation, but Robert ran away and joined a criminal gang. In addition, he fancied luxury vehicles, and despite his small size, he was able to drive them comfortably. During his street errands, he committed twenty-three felonies and five misdemeanors. The US judicial legal systems lacked mechanisms to rehabilitate and protect him from other gang members. Moreover, the Sandifer’s age prevented him protected him against juvenile detention, and he was regarded as too dangerous to be locked together with his age mates. It also kept him away from involvement in serious crimes.
During Sandifer's criminal life, the most serious offense that he committed was shooting several teenagers on August 28, 1994. His gang members provided him a 9-millimeter semi-automated pistol and ordered him to execute a hit. The crime, which Sandifer later fled, resulted to deaths of some youths. For instance, 14 years old Shavon Dean succumbed to gunshot wounds from the incident.
The evil binge made nationwide titles. The country was horrified by the brutality of the murder especially after learning that it was committed by an eleven years old boy. The police launched a hunt for the culprit and investigations which led to discoveries that it was gang initiations gone wrong. His murder occurred on August 31, when his brothers Derrick and Cragg, who were teenage gangsters of the Black Disciple crime group, met him and promised to take him to a safe hideout. They brothers drove him to an underpass where he was shot twice in the back of the head. The move was to ensure that he did not expose the other criminals in a case of arrest. Sandifer's body was discovered and collected by the Chicago Police Department the next morning.
Sandifer’s choice of criminal life can be explained by the environment, middle class measuring rod criminological theories and Cohen’s Sub-cultural Theory. These models have been developed to understand why people engage in crime approaches used to correct them. They emphasize on reasons for young offenders engagement in street gangs.
Sandifer’s situation can be best explained using the Cohen’s Subcultural theory. It tries to tackle the problem of delinquency in the society. It is a further development of Merton theory that seeks to explain youth crime as a result of adaptation to strain in life. Cohen explains why delinquency occurs in gangs that are usually violent with no benefits to young offenders. He also seeks to examine the reasons why young boys from poor background often become the culprits and how the laws fail to protect and correct such children.
Cohen describes the situation where children from poor backgrounds want to achieve dreams but cannot as a result of financial and other social constraints. They end up in frustrations and seek alternative ways to survive and belong in the community. Sandifer was a young boy form a destitute family that struggled with financial and social problems. He grew up without his both parents resulted to strenuous life desperation for recognition and happiness. These occurrences turned him into a bully in school and later joined a street gang. Robert’s education failed and put him at the bottom of the social structure. As a result, he sought respect through vandalism and car theft in the neighborhood. Sandifer had joined both criminal and violence Subcultural group. The Sub cultural theory best describes the various social behaviors developed by youngsters after enduring a neglected life.
The Environment Theory of Criminology explains Sandifer's criminal life. It is a school of thought that explains the criminality behavior of individuals and its relation to the places they live. Patricia and Paul developed the theory in the 1980s as they attempted to identify the context factors that influence crimes among the youth. These factors include terrestrial environment, family, and community that an individual operates.
Sandifer was brought up in a crime related environment. Illegal activities characterized his family background. His father was arrested for criminal offenses while his mother had earlier faced criminal charges. The environment was conducive for immoral behavior development as a result of poor parenting. Also, Robert grew in a violent area of Roseland. The region had many street gangs that stole vehicles and robbed from the residents. The environment influenced the behavior of the children in especially from low-income family backgrounds. He joined crime groups to acquire status among his peers and confront the neglected life. In addition, there was little concern for the boy’s growth at the grandmother’s place, and as a result, he developed immoral behaviors. The environment that Sandifer grew in was difficult to instill morality in him.
Cohen’s Middles Class Measuring Rod Theory is another theory that explains the violence and criminal behaviors of Sandifer. The model explains that delinquency in low-income youth is a cultural resistance towards the middle-income class. The financially challenged families develop practices to seek recognition from the wealthy people in the society through robbery and violence. Sandifer came from a low-income family which was disrespected by the neighbors. He started stealing their cars in the neighborhood and money from schoolmates. Joining the gang was an effort to belong to a group. The low-income groups create conflicts with the wealthy people because they feel that they are forgotten and despised. Truancy and vandalism are a means of gaining respect for Sandifer and his street gang members.
Sandifer chose a criminal life as a result of neglect and torture from parents and schoolmates. He was a neglected and despised child since childhood and his involvement in the crime was a way of seeking respect and a sense of belonging in the society. The young child grew up without his father’s care. He encountered challenges at school and as a result of lack of funds he turned to theft and truancy. In addition, he was influenced to commit crimes for the street gang for recognition and initiation into the group.
The US Department of Children Family Services (DCFS) and legal systems failed Sandifer. The criminal justice system failed to develop statutes to prosecute and sentence the boy for the offenses he committed. Consequently, he continued with his behavior to an extreme of committing murder and later killed by his gang members. Had the government developed elaborate juvenile laws, Robert could be sent to a correction center. Moreover, Department of Children Family Services (DCFS) did not protect the child from torture from the parents and the society. The institution should have kept the boy in a care center for counseling and moral guidance. The two institutions could have to save Sandifer’s life had they performed their professional responsibilities.
In conclusion, youth delinquency is a behavior developed and facilitated by the environment and other psychological factors. Sandifer was a young offender who grew up in a violent environment that influenced his criminal activities. Cohen’s Subcultural, middle-class measuring rod and the environment theories explain the tendency of the young boy to engage in violent crimes. Besides, they relate to Robert’s choice of street gang life that resulted in the murder of a 14-year-old girl and later slain by fellow criminals. The legal system and the children’s department could have saved his life and protected him, had they developed clear laws and policies.