CAUSES OF JUVENILE CRIME
Even though juvenile crime has declined, there still is crime among juveniles in Denmark. As there is no single explanation of crime, there is also not one single explanation why crime is decreasing. It is assumed among criminologists that relatively good public schools where there is much focus on integration of vulnerable pupils explains part of the decline. The crime preventive cross-professional cooperation among schools, social welfare and police is working well in many municipalities and receiving much support from the national crime preventive council. This too is credited for part of the decline.
For at least the last decade, there has been increased public attention on education and employment. The necessity of having a clean criminal record—and unlucky situations for persons who did not have this—has been much debated in public. This is also supposed to play a role and supposedly a bigger role in families and among juveniles who are in a relatively strong social position.
Another factor which is assumed to play an important role for the decrease of juvenile crime is changes in social behavior among children and juveniles. Neither children nor juveniles are seen as much in public as before. To a much larger degree they spend time at home accompanied by their computer and communicating in cyberspace. What this development will lead to in a longer perspective is now debated in public and among experts.
The debate about causes for crime has developed in Denmark in the latest decade. The debate has transitioned from a strong focus on causation inspired by the old causation theories to a current focus on risk factors. In 2009 a voluminous White Paper compiled by a highly estimated group of experts was published by the Ministry of Justice (more than 700 pages). The title was “Action against Juvenile Crime” (1508/2009). One of the recommendations in the report was that a tool for systematic research on risk factors should be developed. Soon after the crime preventive council argued for more focus on risk factors and criminologists started to refer to foreign studies, mainly Farrington and Welsh.
This may be seen as the beginning of a new era in the approach to juvenile crime in Denmark. The identification of risks and needs has been strengthened— more or less systematically—in schools, day cares, etc. It is possible that the spread of the new method has strengthened the decline in youth crime that had already started. But the new approach has not removed the well-known societal challenges such as poverty and low parental capacity. They still exist and are now categorized as “contextual risk factors” (see for instance the Directorate for Social Affairs).
Muslim immigrants and descendants are largely depicted in the media as radicalized criminals. There have been a few sad episodes with young Muslims having committed serious crimes and much attention is paid to the religious factor in the public and in the justice sector. It is still a fact, though, that the young Muslims who have committed crimes are also characterized by being socially and economically marginalized as well as having a very poor educational basis. In other words, several risk factors can be present within the same persons.