Solve a juvenile juvenile crime
Jost Reinecke is professor for quantitative methods of empirical social research at Bielefeld University. The sociologist researches, among other things, the development of juvenile delinquency in the longitudinal section. Together with the criminologist Klaus Boers, Reinecke has been conducting a long-term study on juvenile delinquency in Duisburg since 2002. It is the only long-term study of this kind in Germany that covers a period of more than ten years and thus the entire period of the youth and young adult phase.
Stephan Kuperion has been a criminal judge for 20 years and a youth judge at the Berlin-Tiergarten District Court for over 15 years. Kuperion was a friend and colleague of the deceased juvenile judge Kirsten Heisig. They worked together on the Neukölln model, which was introduced in Berlin in 2008. It provides simplified judicial procedures for certain criminal juveniles. Kuperion is committed to the model to this day - in Berlin and nationwide.
bpb.de: You both deal with juvenile delinquency - from different perspectives: Mr. Reinecke, you as a scientist and sociologist; Mr. Kuperion, you as a youth judge. Where do you both see the most pressing problem with juvenile delinquency at the moment?
Stephan Kuperion: I see the most urgent problem in the expectations of politics and society. It is expected that here at the juvenile court we will steer the messed up life of a young person back into the right direction with one, two or three lawsuits. But problem detection should start much earlier, well before the crimes that are often announced. And of course we also have the problem that we cannot do in juvenile prison what we could or should do. Because the corresponding resources are missing here.
Jost Reinecke: I see it similarly. The preventive aspect of juvenile delinquency is extremely important. With the help of studies, we can show that where the development of young people goes wrong, one could and should intervene early on with measures - for example through social work. Police or judicial control would then not be necessary at all.
The demand for more prevention is not new. Why isn't more happening in this area? Why is politics not releasing more resources?
Coupon: I'm the wrong person to talk to. But I believe that politicians shy away from measures to combat juvenile delinquency precisely because it is a problem area that they can never really master. There is no country, no island in this world without crime. Not even without juvenile delinquency. I would like more resources for prevention work. Also because the population develops a certain feeling of discomfort and fear about these incidents of juvenile delinquency, which we also have in Berlin right now. For example robberies at train stations: Politicians are promoting a decline in the numbers. I cannot understand this point of view. Because it's always about individual cases and individual victims. Whether that's 80 or 100 such incidents. Every victim of massive violence is one too many.
Juvenile delinquency in Berlin
Police crime statistics Berlin
Annual report of juvenile delinquency 2013
Reinecke: Here one must first ask whether it is a “real” decline. We are dealing with brightfield statistics here. So it's about reported crime. A reduced willingness to report can play a role in the decline, as can demographic developments or the police's focus away from juvenile offenders. But we're seeing a real decline more than likely. This is also proven by our dark field statistics. The decline has in part to do with social changes: the majority of young people are increasingly disapproving of violence and crime among their peers. There is also more commitment against violence and crime in schools. And we can see that the consumption of violent media is on the decline.
Light and dark field
Coupon: In Berlin, the currently 28 youth judges are responsible for individual city districts. The twelve districts are shaped very differently. We have almost the same offenses in all of them, but of course we have problem areas. This includes Neukölln with a high proportion of large Arab families. But we also have violent crime in the other districts, with no less brutality. From our perspective as practitioners, we cannot classify young criminals. However, we note that the proportion of violent criminals in the migrant scene is relatively high compared to the population. Overall, however, it is not THE youngsters who are criminals. There is a small group of young people who commit many criminal offenses and repeatedly commit offenses. For some time these have been known to be serious offenders.
Duisburg progress study "Crime in the modern city"
Website of the study "Crime in the Modern City"
Reinecke: Our study is the only larger long-term study in Germany that is based on repeated surveys of the same students. If you ask the same people, you can also examine changes very well. We not only interviewed offenders, but also carried out a representative study of young people for the city of Duisburg. We can demonstrate that delinquency is widespread. Delinquency increases up to the age of fourteen or fifteen, and then we experience spontaneous probation, so the criminological expression. The majority of delinquency goes back and grows in a development-typical manner. This does not apply to the group of intensive offenders that Mr Kuperion addressed. There is a small group of HU offenders who consistently remain delinquent. But this group also shows, at least in our study, declining tendencies in terms of delinquent behavior.
That sounds as if there is “normal” juvenile delinquency on the one hand as a typical age phenomenon and on the other hand there is a hard core of intensive offenders. What does it take in order not to punish the one too harshly and throw them off course and to reach the others early and consistently?
Coupon: Yeah, that's the big problem. All decisions and educational measures are ultimately nothing more than prognostic decisions. Of course there are a large number of young people for whom crime is an episode and who do not exceed a certain level of intensity. One does not have to act with all severity against this. Whereby none of us demands toughness, in the sense that we say that nothing works under six months of youth imprisonment. The decisive factor is the consequence. And what is even more important than the educational measures is what happens when a young person fails to attend the educational measure. It is sick in many areas. It takes a long time before something happens if, for example, the recreational measure or the anti-violence seminar is not completed. Or in a way that doesn't make sense. And again: there are signs that lie ahead of the crime. Abnormalities at school, missed school. Not every truancy becomes an intensive offender, but one thing is clear, the absence of school is a warning sign. For example, we should have a lot more support from social workers and psychologists in schools. We are still a long way from achieving the necessary degree of cooperation between juvenile and family courts. Measures often run in parallel or even against one another.
Reinecke: I fully agree with that. You have to intervene much earlier. Politicians have the tools to do something here. It's not about making punishments harsher. It's about coordinating measures. Especially when it comes to truancy: This is one of the early indicators where one can say that something is going wrong here.
Mr. Reinecke, in your study you also found that contact with the judiciary does not deter young people. On the other hand, that young people who have committed criminal offenses enter into close social ties with one another. A peer group emerges, a reference group that isolates itself from the outside world. So should the judiciary hold back more?
Reinecke: In our study, with the consent of the young people, we were also allowed to record their contacts with the judiciary. We have found that in connection with judicial contacts, the extent of these contacts does not lead to a decrease in criminal offenses. Rather, a delayed exclusion process takes place. That means that the young people isolate themselves more and more. And once these young people are in this cycle, they will not find their way out again, so to speak. One can see that judicial control procedures do not always have the desired effect. In this sense, you need less justice or you need justice in the right place and properly coordinated.
Coupon: But the fact that violence in Berlin's schools has declined is also related, in my firm belief, to the fact that, unlike in earlier times, the schools report cases. Educational measures - and this is what juvenile criminal law is all about - I don't want to see as an unimportant factor. What would the alternative be? We don't react at all? It takes a reaction. The first question is: How do we find the right educational measure? And the second question must be: Can we not influence the implementation of the educational measure better? This then again leads to the question of how much money is there for it. A sensible juvenile prison system can point in the right direction. Juvenile detention can also lead to isolation, to hardening.
Let's talk again about the young intensive offenders. Mr Kuperion, as a youth judge, do you have the feeling that you are facing a new challenge here? Or is it a phenomenon that has always existed and is simply reported more often today?
Coupon: I do believe that it is reported about it more often. It's a phenomenon that has always been around. It is now becoming more well-known because of the term “intensive offender”, because of the special handling by the police and the public prosecutor's office. I've been a criminal judge for 20 years, a youth judge for 15 years - and of course there were perpetrators 15 years ago who kept coming back. And one asked oneself: what is actually happening there? Why does nothing change in his life?
Intensive offenders are quickly equated with an existing migration background of the young people. Mr Reinecke, your study has shown that there is no close connection between juvenile delinquency and a migration background. Again about the background of the study: You did not specifically interview intensive offenders, but young people in general. Can your results from Duisburg also be transferred to other cities?
Reinecke: In my opinion, that can be transferred. As I said, we are talking about perpetrator rates in the dark field. So crime that wasn't reported. In the meantime, our and other studies show that the perpetrator rates among young people with a migration background - in Duisburg it is mainly young people of Turkish origin - are at a similar level to those of respondents of German origin. We also found that girls have a far lower proportion of violent offenders. Girls of Turkish origin are significantly less violent than those of German origin. Another result is that - in contrast - among young male ethnic repatriates, i.e. among Germans from Russia, an increased level of violent delinquency has been observed in recent years. So you have to approach it in a very differentiated way.
The Neukölln model
Coupon: We have an average of four to eight months between the act and the trial. Of course, this is far too long for an educational response. This means that an educational, consistent measure does not necessarily have to be tougher, but has to take place more quickly and promptly.That is why the demand must be: We need so many youth judges, the police and the public prosecutor's office so well equipped that we can basically deal with youth matters quickly. The speed we can achieve here is primarily a question of the resources we have.
And how is the Neukölln model currently being implemented?
Coupon: It is more difficult than initially thought. Berlin is a huge entity with a large number of police officers, a comparatively high number of juvenile criminal lawyers, juvenile judges and so on - albeit insufficient for a quick decision in all cases. We are still in the process of implementing the model and adapting it so that it works in the long term. What the Neukölln model has already achieved is a network between the four parties involved in juvenile criminal proceedings: juvenile court assistance, police, public prosecutor and juvenile court. We meet in regular working groups. In the last few years we have had 200 to 300 procedures based on the Neukölln model. In my opinion, this does not yet correspond to the number of cases for which the model is intended, suitable and educationally useful. And that's what it's about. I am not interested in the fact that we generate incredibly high case numbers. Even more about the fact that we are incredibly fast, just for the sake of speed. My aim is to be able to react quickly in cases where it seems particularly important to be able to implement it. We are working on that. But the Neukölln model is not a panacea. It is ONE component in the fight against crime.
The interview was conducted by Sonja Ernst.
Related LinksDuisburg progress study "Crime in the modern city"
Project overview "Crime in the modern city"
Press release on the current results of the long-term study in Duisburg, May 22, 2014 (PDF) http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/soz/krimstadt/pdf/Pressemitteilung-22.05.2014.pdf
Print media coverage of the current results of the long-term study in Duisburg, May 22, 2014 (PDF) http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/soz/krimstadt/pdf/Medienecho_Print_23.05.2014.pdf
Detector.fm on the study results, "Juvenile delinquency - a problem solves itself?" (Audio contribution)
DVJJ (German Association for Juvenile Courts and Youth Court Assistance), final report of the evaluation of the "Neukölln Model", November 25, 2014
Clemens Hoffmann, model Neukölln in the government trot, audio contribution on WDR 5, January 13, 2015
Kirsten Heisig, Fear is a bad advisor, Spiegel Magazin, July 19, 2010
Christian Denso and Heinrich Wefing, Youth Violence: The End of Impatience, Zeit Online, December 28, 2010
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