Which country is best at dealing with criminals

Gangster runner

Wolfgang Heinz

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Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Heinz was professor at the Law Faculty of the University of Konstanz from 1981 until his retirement in 2007. His main research interests are in the fields of criminology, legal fact research, juvenile criminal law and commercial criminal law. In numerous empirical studies he has dealt with questions of juvenile delinquency, crime statistics and criminal law research on sanctions and effects. Among other things, Heinz built up the Constance inventory on crime development and the Constance inventory on sanctions research.

Young criminals appear to have become more brutal. If violent attacks occur, calls for tougher measures to be taken against the perpetrators are usually quickly voiced - in the media, in politics, in the public. The criminologist and legal scholar Wolfgang Heinz outlines juvenile delinquency in Germany. Overall, this has not become more brutal and the number of offenses is also declining.

Juvenile delinquency is mostly male. And it is not a minority phenomenon. The majority of young people stop their criminal behavior all by themselves - as they grow up. (& copy dpa)

Criminal juveniles have been and are being complained of at all times. Shakespeare found what is probably the most beautiful poetic form of expression of this lament 400 years ago: "I wish there were no ages between ten and twenty-three, or the young people slept through the whole time: Because in between there is nothing but the elderly create children for the prostitutes annoy, steal, scuffle. "[1] Less poetic, but far more powerful are the headlines of today's media, such as the title" Young men: The most dangerous species in the world. "[2] Such and similar reports largely determine our" knowledge " Juvenile delinquency, our "fear of crime" and our criminal policy attitudes.

Juvenile delinquency and "perceived" juvenile delinquency

This "perceived" crime corresponds only to a limited extent with reality. Survey data on self-reported delinquency, i.e. voluntary information on personal delinquency, initially show that juvenile delinquency is ubiquitous, that is, in the "statistical sense" (such as tooth decay), "normal". It is "abnormal" to be caught doing it or to be punished for it. In school surveys - depending on the area of ​​offense surveyed - up to 70 percent stated or admitted that they had committed at least one of the offenses surveyed there in the past twelve months. In the most recent study, which was carried out in 2007/2008 in a sample of students in grade 9 representative across Germany, this was the case for 43.7 percent of the male and 23.6 percent of the female respondents (see Figure 1). This self-reported delinquency offers insight into the so-called dark field, namely with regard to those offenses that are not known to the police.

If one also includes fare dodging, a typical juvenile offense, in the survey, the numbers are even higher: In a survey carried out in 2000 in five German cities or districts, a total of 71.4 percent of male and 67.6 percent of female adolescents stated having committed at least one offense; 53.2 percent of the male and 38.5 percent of the female adolescents also admitted to fare dodging. According to this, juvenile delinquency is not a minority phenomenon.

Figure 1: Darkfield crime - self-reported delinquency of juveniles License: cc by-nd / 3.0 / de (bpb, Wolfgang Heinz - Constance inventory of crime development)

Darkfield Crime - Self-Reported Delinquency of Adolescents

Figure 1 shows that serious forms of crime are rare. Juvenile delinquency moves within a continuum, at one end of which stands the great majority of young people with typical, few and minor offenses, and at the other end of which there are relatively few young people with many and / or serious offenses. Figure 1 also shows that the differences in the frequency of inspections between female and male adolescents in a crime such as shoplifting are small. However, the greater the severity of the offense, the greater the differences. Juvenile delinquency is predominantly boy delinquency. This is higher and usually heavier than that of the respective contemporaries.

Crime statistics show that young people in any society and at all times (overall) are far more likely to become criminals than adults (see Figure 2). [3] Adolescence is the time of highest activity and the exploration of boundaries. However, the numbers differ depending on the type of offense: According to the police crime statistics (PKS) in Germany, crimes of bodily harm are mainly committed by 18 to under 21 year olds, while in white-collar crime the group of 50 to under 60 year olds is committed has the highest rates.

Diagram 2: Crime over the age course License: cc by-nd / 3.0 / de (bpb, Wolfgang Heinz - Konstanz Inventory Crime Development)

Age Crime

As Figure 2 shows, the higher burden of young people with registered crime does not continue well into adulthood. This is shown by all national and international statistics. For the vast majority of young people, behavior that violates criminal norms remains an episode in their maturation and adaptation process. This episode usually ends without any intervention by the police or the judiciary.

Most of the crimes typically committed by young people are lighter crimes, primarily in the area of ​​property and property crimes. In contrast, the range of offenses committed by adults is much broader and more severe than that of young people. Adults - and not young people - are the typical perpetrators of drug, arms and human trafficking and other types of organized crime, domestic violence, corruption, and economic and environmental crime. Such adult offenses, however, are more difficult to discover and more difficult to prove. In this respect, there is a statistical overrepresentation of young people, also as a consequence of the underrepresentation of adults. By the way, young people are more likely to be victims of violence, especially domestic violence, than perpetrators of violence.