Third Party Policing and School Truancy Research Paper

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Third-party policing is an approach to crime prevention and control involving the police partnering with organizations or individuals to prevent or reduce crime problems. It relies on available civil, criminal, or regulatory rules and laws (legal levers) that enable third parties to take responsibility, at least in part, for control of crime. This research paper examines the complexities of the legislative and regulatory framework around the problem of school truancy to illustrate the range of opportunities for using legal levers within a third-party policing context.


Third-party policing is a strategy where police collaborate with organizations or nonoffending persons to encourage them to take part responsibility for preventing crime or reducing crime problems (Buerger and Mazerolle 1998). In a third-party policing approach, the police aim to improve crime control, where previous efforts were ineffective, by creating third-party partnerships to enforce the law. These third-party partnerships may be cooperative and involve community members, parents, inspectors, and regulators to convince third parties to take on more crime prevention or control responsibility. Importantly, third-party policing relies on available civil, criminal, and regulatory rules and laws (referred to as legal levers) that enable third parties to take crime-control responsibility.

Third-party policing is an international and growing phenomenon in policing. Mazerolle and Ransley (2005) show that about 50 % of problem-oriented policing (POP) projects utilize at least one third-party policing tactic and occur outside the Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment (SARA) policing approach to problem-solving. Problem-oriented policing provides a management infrastructure (see Goldstein 1990) and a stepwise approach to solving a crime problem (Eck and Spelman 1987) within which third-party policing may be one response utilized by police to solve a crime problem (Goldstein (2003). Situational crime prevention provides police with ideas and techniques for reducing crime opportunities (Clarke 1992). In fact, third-party policing can be integrated into any of the 25 techniques of crime prevention proposed by Cornish and Clarke (2003).

When third-party policing is implemented as a crime-control mechanism, the structure of the available legal levers dictates how potential crime-control problems are solved. While third-party policing is merely one of many categories of problem-solving responses or situational techniques, the use of coercive power, from the available legal levers, differentiates the third-party policing approach from other policing strategies (see Buerger and Mazerolle 1998).

In third-party policing, the police partnerships with the chosen third parties focus on encouraging or coercing the third party to utilize the legal lever available to them to respond to the relevant crime-control issue (Mazerolle and Ransley 2005).

This research paper explores the legal context that underpins third-party policing. Third-party policing occurs within a legal framework that establishes the authority for police to partner with or coerce third parties, the contexts in which they can do this, and the types of interventions this may produce. Arguably, it is this legal basis of third-party policing that both defines it as a unique strategy and distinguishes it from other policing interventions, most notably problem-oriented policing.

The most common legal levers used in third-party policing include local, state, and federal statutes (including municipal ordinances and town bylaws); health and safety codes; uniform building standards; liquor licensing; and a wide variety of statutory programs that use injunctive remedies (e.g., domestic violence restraining orders, gang injunctions, drug nuisance abatement). Importantly, the legal lever may not be aimed at crime control but may instead regulate another form of activity that, if managed, could have a crime-control impact. In fact many legal levers used in third-party policing approaches are not sourced from criminal law. For example, many of the legal levers that can be applied in a third-party policing intervention for truancy come from education law but operate to control crime by improving student attendance and reducing the likelihood that students become either a victim or perpetrator of crime.

This research paper examines the complexities of the legislative and regulatory framework around the issue of truancy to illustrate the breadth of opportunities for using legal levers within a third-party policing context. It begins with an overview of the general understanding of the problem of truancy, followed by an overview of a wide range of legal, civil, and informal levers and sources of authority available to support a range of possible interventions in truancy across a range of jurisdictions. Next, the challenges for police in initiating and implementing a third-party policing approach to truancy are discussed, and finally, some conclusions are drawn.

Truancy And Third-Party Policing

Truancy is generally defined as unexplained and persistent absenteeism from school. Research has shown a relationship between truancy and numerous negative developmental outcomes for a young person including school dropout (Alexander et al. 1997), unemployment and social service dependency (Attwood and Croll 2006), and teen pregnancy (Spencer 2009). Research shows truancy is symptomatic and causally related to domestic violence, general family dysfunction (Baker et al. 2001), substance use and abuse (Henry and Huizinga 2007), low socioeconomic status (Baker et al. 2001), and bullying or school violence (Reid 2005). Importantly, truancy is also directly related to, among other antisocial behaviors, antisocial peer influence and drug and alcohol use (Henry 2007). This makes effective intervention for truancy critical for the young person, their family, and the community, as addressing truancy may have a crime-control function. However, the variation in underlying causes of truancy makes systematic intervention for truancy difficult for government agencies.

A third-party policing approach to truancy provides the requisite flexibility for a systematic intervention to effectively address truancy. This flexibility is created by the multitude of differentially focused legal levers available to authorities to use in deterring truancy and encouraging school attendance. While each legal lever offers police an opportunity to use a third-party policing intervention approach in response to truancy, the number of legal levers can make it difficult for police to identify which legal levers will be appropriate and effective for different truancy cases. It can also be difficult for police to select an appropriate third-party partner to work cooperatively in a third-party policing approach to address truancy.

Broadly speaking, legal levers fall within two overarching categories: those that seek to deter truancy (taking the “stick” approach) and those that seek to encourage or normalize attendance (taking the “carrot” approach). Two kinds of third-party policing interventions for truancy emerge based on this classification of available legal levers. The first is a formal third-party policing approach that aims to deter students from truancy by using coercive or punitive legal levers (deterrence-focused legal levers) in organized partnerships with other agencies as third-party partners. The second is an informal third-party policing approach, with police using legal levers that focus on engagement in school (engagement-focused legal levers) to partner directly with parents as the third-party partners. The next section discusses these two approaches to truancy by exploring the available legal levers in various jurisdictions and explaining their anticipated impact on students’ school attendance behavior.

Deterrence-Focused Legal Levers

Deterrence-focused legal levers, those that aim to stop truanting behavior, generally use punishment or the threat of punishment to induce compliance with a legal mandate. For truancy, the legal mandate is consistent across jurisdictions and requires children attend school on all school days (e.g., Education (General Provisions) Act (Qld) s176(1)). Deterrence-focused legal levers authorize, and thus legitimize, a government agency or department to deal with truancy using some form of punitive sanction. To be properly utilized in a third-party policing intervention, deterrence-focused legal levers generally require police to develop a more formal partnership with the agency authorized by the relevant legal lever to take action in relation to truancy. In this way, the identification of a useful deterrence-focused legal lever will lead police to a natural third party whom they can partner with in order to engage in a third-party policing intervention for truancy. As deterrence-focused legal levers typically involve the third party administering punishment, schools and other government organizations, rather than nongovernment organizations, are authorized to act by deterrence-focused legal levers. Schools and other government agencies have access to less punitive deterrence-focused legal levers, such as notifying parents of their duty to ensure their child attends school, and more punitive legal levers, such as revocation of welfare payments to coerce attendance at school.

School-Initiated Legal Levers

In many jurisdictions schools are deputized by law, principally by legislation and regulations, to administer punitive deterrence-focused legal levers. This makes schools an ideal third party for police to partner with in a third-party policing intervention approach to truancy. Additionally, school staff have regular contact with families and consequently knowledge of the contributing factors to an individual student’s truancy. In combination with their legal authority to deal with truancy, by way of deterrence-focused legal levers, this means schools can be a powerful cooperative partner for police in a third-party policing approach to truancy. Some of the commonly available school-initiated legal levers and their deterrent value on truancy behavior will now be discussed.

Mandatory Attendance Recording Most countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, require schools to keep accurate attendance records (Education (General Provisions) Regulation 2006 (Qld) ss18, 20–21; Education Act 1990 s24; School Education Act 1999 (WA) s28; Education Act 1994 (Tas) s6(3); UK Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008). Some legislation requires that the school track attendance throughout the day, contact parents promptly in the event of an unexplained absence, and confirm explanations for unauthorized absences that are provided by students (Education (General Provisions) Regulation 2006 (Qld) s20(2)). Schools can also be obliged to report an absence where there is reasonable cause to suspect that nonattendance is associated with a risk of harm to the child (e.g., Education (General Provisions) Regulation 2006 (Qld) s20(6)). In New South Wales, it is an offense for a school principal to fail to keep accurate attendance records (Education Act 1990 (NSW) s24(5)). While record keeping may not appear to have a deterrent impact on children and parents, it has two important deterrent functions. First, regular role calls and following up on absences make families aware that attendance is taken seriously and may trigger voluntary reengagement in school before truancy becomes habitual. Second, accurate records of student nonattendance are an integral component in initiating more punitive legal levers.

Notice Of Parental Legal Obligations And Consequences In many jurisdictions, schools are required to inform parents of the obligation for children to attend school regularly if a child begins to truant from school. In Queensland (Australia), schools must notify parents in writing of their duty to ensure that their child attends school and meet with parents to discuss how continued truancy can be resolved (Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) s178(2)–(3)). Other Australian States and Territories, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom also require schools to warn parents of the requirement that children attend school. Notice to parents often warns that continued truancy will trigger more punitive sanctions, like prosecution or control orders (e.g., Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22C, Education Act 2011 (NT) s23B). Notification procedures deter truancy by raising awareness of the punitive consequences that may arise if truancy is not resolved. Like attendance recording, notification procedures may trigger a voluntary return to school.

Fines Fines are used to punish and deter individuals who enable or engage in truancy in many jurisdictions, including all Australian States and Territories, parts of Canada and the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), New Zealand (NZ), and Hong Kong. Fines are principally administered in response to two kinds of truancy-related offenses: adult employers who employ children during school hours (e.g., Education Act 1990 (Ontario) s30(3), Education Act 1995 (Nova Scotia) s115, Education Act 1997 (New Brunswick) s17) and parents who fail to ensure their child attends school (e.g., Education Act 1990 (Ontario) s30(1), Education (General Provisions) Act (Qld) s176(1), Education Act 1990 (NSW) s23(1)). Generally, fine amounts vary based on the target of the fine. Smaller fines apply for first-time offenses, with larger fines for subsequent or repeat offenses. Fines deter truancy by imposing a punitive financial consequence for enabling truancy and place pressure on adults to enforce mandatory school attendance by ensuring children attend school.

Contracts To Formalize Behavioral Undertakings In some instances, parties who are responsible for improving a child’s attendance record are required to formalize undertakings to improve attendance in a written agreement or contract. Some contracts are forged between parents and government agencies to arrange support for a return to school (e.g., Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22B, Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (UK) s19). Other contracts are made with any responsible adult in the student’s life, including grandparents and community elders (Education Act 2012 (NT) s23B). The different forms of contracts in different jurisdictions implicate different family members in remedying the child’s truancy and offer a diverse range of partners for a third-party policing intervention.

Contractual undertakings may require that the parents, or responsible adults, engage in counseling or other intervention for their personal problems that interfere with their supervision of the truanting child (e.g., Youth Justice Act 2011 (NT) s140E). In some jurisdictions, including the Northern Territory (Australia) and the United Kingdom, contracts do not give rise to enforceable legal obligations if breached. These contracts are less coercive, and consequently less of a deterrent, because no punishment arises for failing to adhere to the contract. However, these contracts still have a deterrent function for truancy by consolidating the steps that need to be taken to remedy the truancy in one document. They may also trigger a voluntary compliance with the mandatory attendance requirement by creating a moral obligation on parents and families to comply. Some contracts, like those in New South Wales (Australia) (e.g., Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22B(4)), are admissible as evidence in truancy-related court proceedings. Breach of these contracts may be part of a court’s decision to impose a more coercive legal lever. This means admissible contracts have a stronger deterrent impact on truancy because they may initiate harsher penalties for truancy.

Government Agency-Initiated Legal Levers

Less frequently, other government agencies are deputized by legislation or a regulation to use deterrence-focused legal levers to reduce truancy. Other government departments may have access to expertise or services that could assist in the implementation of a third-party policing approach to truancy, positioning them as another powerful third-party partner for police. The legal levers available to these agencies generally focus on removing appealing alternatives to attending school, such as driver’s license revocation for truanting minors, or punishment to deter further truancy, such as welfare payment restriction schemes.

Investigation Powers Police officers or appointed “attendance,” “truancy,” and “liaison” officers are in some instances provided with statutory powers to conduct investigations into suspected instances of truancy to curb nonattendance. These powers may include the ability to question school-aged children seen in public during school hours, to return a school-aged child to school or to the student’s home, or take other appropriate action in relation to the child (Education Act 1990 (NSW) s122; Education Act 1972 (SA) ss79, 80A; School Education Act 1999 (WA) s36; Education Act (NT) s23C; Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s2.1.10; Education Act 1989 (NZ) s31). Some state police services also conduct “street sweeps” of popular locations for truanting such as train stations, shopping malls, and parks. Investigative powers work in several ways to deter truancy. Investigative actions remind parents and children that attendance is important and that missing school is considered by schools and education departments to be a serious act. Investigations of truancy may also trigger either willing compliance with the school attendance mandate or the application of more punitive legal levers like prosecution.

Welfare Payment Suspensions Currently, the Australian government is trialing suspension of family welfare payments as a truancy response in selected communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory (in the SEAM trial). Social security benefits, pensions, defense force income supplements, and armed forces service pensions can be suspended under the scheme if a child in the care of the payment recipient is not attending school (Australian Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) s124D). Payment suspensions can only be initiated after the payment recipient has been issued a warning notice and has been given 28 days to remedy the child’s truancy (Australian Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) s124K). If truancy is not remedied within the warning period, payments can be suspended for up to 13 weeks. If truancy persists after an initial suspension, payments can be suspended again or ultimately canceled (Australian Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) s124M). Welfare payment suspension potentially has a powerful capacity as a deterrence-focused legal lever. The financial consequences of a welfare payment suspension far exceed any fine based in education law in most jurisdictions.

Motor Vehicle License Revocations Some parts of Canada and the United States permit the removal of habitual truants’ driver’s licenses (Reimer and Dimock 2005). For example, the driver’s license suspension regimes in California enable suspension for up to a year (Vehicle Code (California) s13202.7). This type of legal lever can only be used on older students who have a driver’s license, making it an ineffective legal lever for younger students. However, license revocation has a strong deterrent capacity as it limits students’ ability to engage in an alternative activity that is more desirable than attending school. As the decision to revoke a license is administrative rather than judicial, it can be made more quickly and responsively to habitual truancy than those legal levers that rely on a judicial decision from the courts.

Parent-Targeted Control Orders Some jurisdictions have legislative regimes that permit courts to make control orders that force parents to ensure their child attends school. In New South Wales (Australia), the Children’s Court can make a compulsory schooling order over the parent to force the truanting child’s attendance at school. These orders can include directives to agencies to provide support to the family so that the order is upheld (Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22D(7)(b)). Parenting orders are also used in the UK and can be issued by the court when a parent refuses to be a party to a parenting contract in relation to persistent truancy on the part of their child (UK Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008). In New South Wales, the penalty for breaching a control order, by failing to ensure that the truanting child attends school, is four times the penalty for breaching the general parental duty to ensure that children attend school (Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22D(9)(a)). This strengthens the deterrent impact of control orders and makes control orders an excellent legal lever for a third-party policing intervention.

Truanting students can also be prosecuted for nonattendance at school in some jurisdictions, including New South Wales and the Northern Territory (Australia) (Education Act 1990 (NSW) s22D(9)(b), Education Act 2012 (NT) s23B(12)). Control orders may have a large deterrent impact on truancy because unlike other deterrence-focused legal levers, the child can be directly punished for nonattendance.

Engagement-Focused Legal Levers

Engagement-focused legal levers, those that seek to reengage the student in school, typically provide resources and support to encourage attendance. These engagement-focused legal levers, which are chiefly sourced in policy, are comparatively “soft” to deterrence-focused legal levers. Unlike deterrence-focused legal levers, which generally require a legally legitimate third-party agency to operate the lever, by using engagement-focused legal levers, police can partner directly with parents. As parental condemnation of truancy may have a significant influence on a student’s behavior (Reimer and Dimock 2005), parents can be an influential third party for police to partner with in a third-party policing approach to truancy. While this kind of third-party policing intervention may appear simple to implement, one challenge of using engagement-focused legal levers is finding a nonthreatening way for police to contact and develop a dialogue with parents. The use of a family group conference to implement a deterrent and engagement third-party policing approach between police, parents, and support agencies is currently being trialed in Australia (Mazerolle et al. 2012).

Awareness Campaigns

The broadest of the engagement-focused legal levers explored in this research paper are attendance awareness campaigns initiated by governments. In Australia these campaigns include “Every Day Counts” (Queensland), “It’s Not OK to be Away” (Victoria), “Every Child Every Day” (Northern Territory), and “All Starts At School” (Western Australia). Typically these campaigns employ sports stars, celebrities, and local or past student mentors as the face of the campaign to promote the importance of regular and consistent school attendance (e.g., Phillips 2011). They aim to change existing normative attitudes toward school attendance (Queensland Department of Education and Training 2010). Awareness campaigns, by informing parents of the problems associated with truancy, may make parents willing to partner with police in a third-party policing intervention for their child’s truancy. This makes awareness campaigns clearly engagement focused.

Early Parental Notification Of Unexplained Absences

Another simple engagement-focused legal lever is prompt notification to parents of unexplained absences at school. Notification legal levers facilitate a strong relationship between schools and parents by encouraging schools to engage with parents on a regular basis (Kronholz 2011). Legal levers include immediately text-messaging parents if a child is not at school, liaison officers completing regular home checkups with parents of truanting students (Queensland Department of Education and Training 2010), reporting school and statewide attendance levels in the school newsletter to promote awareness of comparative attendance discrepancies (Victorian Government 2006), and conducting family counseling sessions for at-risk students (Reimer and Dimock 2005). Prompt notification of absences may initiate voluntary reengagement with school before truancy becomes habitual.

Programs For Improving Attendance

Some jurisdictions have programs that offer students incentives for regular attendance. Incentive initiatives include mentoring programs, such as the “Big Brother” program in the United States (Reimer and Dimock 2005), and gifts including money, vouchers, special meals, and excursions. Some programs randomize the award of any incentives to avoid strategic school attendance by habitual truants.

A number of schools use incentives and support to ensure students arrive on time. Breakfast clubs have been used to encourage early arrival at school (Chilcott 2009). Daily pickup services (Queensland Department of Education and Training 2010), free bus passes, and wake-up calls (Kronholz 2011) have also been used to facilitate a timely arrival at school. Difficulty with transportation to school has been identified as a cause of truancy (Reid 2005) so these legal levers engage students in school by resolving an underlying cause of truancy.

To make reintegration into the classroom after truancy easier, some programs seek to engage students in school by providing academic support for classes missed. These programs include homework clubs, tutoring, or makeup classes (Victorian Government 2006). These engagement-focused legal levers should assist return to school where academic problems contributed to the student’s decision to truant.

Flexible Schooling Arrangements

Flexible arrangements authorize schools to develop alternative methods of attending for students who face difficulties attending standard school hours (e.g., School Education Act 1999 (WA) s24). Flexible arrangements can be used, for example, for older students who have caring responsibilities or young children at home. Under the legislation in Queensland (Australia), arrangements are developed by the parent and can be authorized by the relevant teacher (Education (General Provisions) Act (Qld) ss182, 183). Flexible arrangements encourage engagement with school by removing pragmatic barriers to regular school attendance experienced by some students.

Community Partners And Group Action

Although group action by community partners generally is intended to deter students from truanting, frequently this kind of third-party policing intervention also engages the community to proactively mobilize against truancy. Group action in response to truancy generally involves community members taking action to reduce the availability of activities that students may engage in instead of attending school. An excellent example of group action is the “No School, No Service” program in the Northern Territory, in which business owners agree to refuse to serve school-aged children during school hours, providing a strong disincentive to truant. In these group interventions, the community, unlike a parent, is not legally obligated to play a role in the enforcement of the legal mandate that children attend school. Group action stems from a decision to stop enabling truancy, even though the community is not legally obligated to be part of the enforcement of the mandatory school attendance requirement.

Initiation And Implementation Of A Third-Party Policing Intervention

The relative effectiveness of a third-party policing approach to truancy is shaped by how the approach is initiated and implemented. Specifically, the choice of the focus of the third-party policing approach in initiating third-party policing partnerships and the role of the police within an established third-party policing partnership can have significant impact on whether the third-party policing approach to truancy is effective. These initiation and implementation issues are discussed in this section.

Initiating Third-Party Partnerships

In a sense, the success of a third-party policing approach to truancy is dependent on the willingness of police, the third party, and the target to comply with the legal lever used in the intervention. The burden is on police to initiate the partnership process and make the decision about the focus of the third-party policing intervention. These choices can, at first glance, appear difficult in the face of the multitude of legal levers available to address truancy. For each truancy case, the police will be faced with numerous engagement-and deterrence-focused legal levers that they could use in a third-party policing intervention. In a way, the core decision to be made for a successful third-party policing approach is whether to use deterrence or engagement-focused legal levers. By virtue of the way the law functions in many jurisdictions, the legal lever identifies to the police the target of a third-party policing approach. Third-party policing interventions for truancy, based on the available legal levers discussed in this research paper, are mostly targeted at either parent or child.

If a deterrence-focused third-party policing approach is chosen, in most cases the decisions about third-party partners and intervention targets will flow naturally from the choice of legal lever. As discussed, deterrence-focused legal levers, sourced most frequently from legislation and regulations, will typically legitimize a thirdparty agency, who naturally becomes the thirdparty partner in a third-party policing approach that uses that legal lever. Deterrence-focused legal levers of a punitive nature will also always identify a target for the third-party policing intervention, which in the case of truancy may not always be the child. This significantly reduces the complexity of implementing a third-party policing approach for police. For example, if the police elect to use a deterrent approach in response to truancy, they may use a parental prosecution legal lever. In most jurisdictions, the legal lever for parental prosecution for the nonattendance of a child will authorize the school or education department in that jurisdiction to engage in the prosecution decision-making process. In making the decision to use a deterrent approach and use the parental prosecution legal lever, the police have already identified a target for the third-party policing intervention, the parent of the truanting child, and a third-party partner, the school or education department.

A similar relationship between legal levers, third-party partners, and targets exists in relation to engagement-focused legal levers. Although engagement-focused legal levers tend to be sourced in policy and thus do not identify a natural third party for police to partner with, most engagement-focused levers have a clear target. In most cases, the target of an engagement-focused legal lever is the child. This is the case with truancy awareness campaigns, incentives, and programs that support attendance, flexible schooling arrangements, and typically community action. In focusing on the child, the parent or caregiver can become a natural choice of third-party partner for police to use a proactive engagement-focused lever to facilitate their child’s regular attendance at school.

Once the partnership has been established, police play a critical role in implementing the third-party policing approach to truancy. Importantly, police will often need to provide the third-party collaborator with encouragement and support, to ensure that the third party initiates the chosen legal lever to cause change in the behavior of the intervention target. This is especially true when a third-party policing approach to truancy is used, as legal levers that respond to truancy are often infrequently used. For this reason, it is important that the police remain an active party to the third-party policing partnership to implement the third-party policing approach to impact truancy.

Maintaining Third-Party Partnerships

Timely and consistent activation of the chosen legal lever is critical to the success of a third-party policing approach to truancy. Many engagement-and deterrence-focused legal levers are infrequently used to respond to truancy. Within a third-party policing approach, activation of the chosen legal lever is the focus of the intervention. Ultimately, an infrequently, or unapplied, legal lever will not change truancy behavior. Thus police need to address any third-party reticence to utilize the chosen legal lever within the third-party policing partnership if the intervention is to be effective.

Deterrence-focused legal levers, and in particular prosecution-based legal levers, seem to be particularly infrequently used in relation to truancy. Determining the number of parent-and child-focused prosecutions that take place is difficult because in many jurisdictions the prosecutions occur in lower courts, many of which do not keep record databases of their decisions. Australian states seem reluctant to address truancy by parental prosecution. News reports indicate in April 2009 seven parents were “facing” prosecution in Queensland, with an eighth being referred to the police for action (Chilcott 2009). In South Australia, 24 cases were brought between 1984 and November 2010, only six of which were successful (Keller 2011). Just six parents were prosecuted in Tasmania between 2005 and 2009 (Dickson and Hutchinson 2010). In Western Australia and the ACT, truancy prosecutions were commenced for the first time in February 2010 and 2009 respectively (Dickson and Hutchinson 2010). It is reported that Northern Territory and Victorian truancy laws have never been enforced (Dickson and Hutchinson 2010). In contrast, New South Wales initiated 310 prosecutions in 2010 against parents or children for persistent school nonattendance (McDougall 2011).

The United Kingdom regularly prosecutes parents for failing to ensure their children attend school (Morris 2009). In contrast, enforcement is anecdotally lax in the United States (Kronholz 2011), and in New Zealand there were two prosecutions recorded in 2011 (Fisher 2011) and only 17 between 2004 and 2007 (Rich 2007).

Another related and important issue is how prosecution is initiated. The number of notification steps that must be taken prior to a prosecution, fine, welfare payment suspension, or control order in most jurisdictions precludes immediate use of a deterrence-focused legal lever in response to truancy. In fact, the policy guidelines of some jurisdictions, including Queensland, Tasmania, and New Zealand, specifically identify prosecution as a last resort measure (Chilcott 2009; Dickson and Hutchinson 2010; New Zealand Ministry of Education 2010). Although appropriate consideration before using deterrence-focused legal levers afforded by longer escalation processes is important, delays in the application of a legal lever after truancy occurs may weaken the deterrent power of the legal lever. This is recognized in some jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom, where local authorities are able to override escalation prerequisites to fast track prosecutions in cases where this is considered appropriate (UK Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008).

The negative institutional attitude toward prosecution and other punitive deterrent legal levers reflects uncertainty in the assumptions that underpin the use of punishment in response to truancy. More specifically, there seems to be a belief that punishing parents for truancy unfairly assumes parental failure causes truancy. Some also object to truancy relevant fines because they disadvantage families with the smallest disposable income.

In a third-party policing approach, possible negative attitudes toward using legal levers, particularly those legal levers that are deterrence focused, can be counteracted by police encouraging and supporting the third party to use the legal levers to address the truancy problems. In this way, a third-party policing approach could make the most effective use of preexisting legal levers to reduce truancy and consequently the prevalence of antisocial behavior.

Concluding Comments

The legal context within each jurisdiction informs the way a third-party policing intervention for truancy is initiated and implemented. The differentially focused legal levers across jurisdictions provide flexibility to address the root causes of truancy, streamline the decision-making process for police determining how to implement a third-party policing approach, and assist police in defining their role within a third-party policing partnership to achieve effective intervention for truancy. Importantly, the various legal levers available offer police a plethora of opportunities to engage in a third-party policing intervention for truancy, which may have a crime prevention impact for the community. Third-party policing offers police the opportunity to address crime prevention effectively by utilizing preexisting legal levers and third-party partnerships in a resource responsible manner.


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