PLoS ONE (Jan 2019)

Community context and individual factors associated with arrests among young men in a South African township.

  • Joan Christodoulou,
  • Lynissa R Stokes,
  • Jason Bantjes,
  • Mark Tomlinson,
  • Jackie Stewart,
  • Stephan Rabie,
  • Sarah Gordon,
  • Andile Mayekiso,
  • Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 1
p. e0209073


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BackgroundIn high-income countries, individual- and community-level factors are associated with increased contact with the criminal justice system. However, little is known about how these factors contribute to the risk of arrest in South Africa, which has one of the highest rates of arrests globally. We examine both individual- and community-level factors associated with arrests among young men living in the townships of Cape Town.MethodsData were collected from a stratified community sample of 906 young men aged 18-29 years old living in 18 township neighborhoods. Communities with high and low rates of arrest were identified. Logistic regression models were used to assess which individual-level (such as substance use and mental health status) and community-level (such as infrastructure and presence of bars and gangs) factors predict arrests.ResultsSignificant predictors of arrests were substance use, gang activity, being older, more stressed, and less educated. Living in communities with better infrastructure and in more recently established communities populated by recent immigrants was associated with having a history of arrests.ConclusionsWhen considering both individual- and community-level factors, substance use and gang violence are the strongest predictors of arrests among young men in South Africa. Unexpectedly, communities with better infrastructure have higher arrest rates. Community programs are needed to combat substance use and gang activity as a pathway out of risk among South African young men.Trial registration #NCT02358226, registered Nov 24, 2014.