TRENDS IN JUVENILE CRIME OVER THE LAST DECADES, IN PARTICULAR THE PERIOD 2004-2014
Juvenile delinquency became a major issue in the 1960s and 1970s, when official crime rates increased and a lack of adequate delinquency treatment and prevention became evident. At that time no self-report or victimization surveys existed yet. In the 1980s, called the “golden age” of German juvenile justice, juvenile delinquency declined at the same time as major liberal reforms with expanding diversion new community sentences and restorative justice measures, in particular victim-offender mediation, took place (see Dhnkel 2006, 2011a). The early 1990s brought different challenges to the youth justice system, as after the German reunification, the East-German federal states showed a strong increase of the juvenile crime rate and in particular the violent crime rate.
Since the mid-1990s the increase of juvenile crime rates levelled off and since the early 2000s another remarkable decrease of registered as well as self-reported juvenile delinquency could be observed (see Baier et al. 2009; Heinz 2014; Baier and Prator 2016; for similar results in other European countries, see Junger-Tas et al. 2010). In particular, violent offences and therefore violent victimization particularly decreased (see also Dhnkel et al. 2008).
When talking about juvenile delinquency in Germany, one has to consider that due to the German juvenile justice system, which deals with 14-17-years-old juveniles as well as with 18-20-years-old young adults statistics refer always to these age groups. Police statistics also refer to young adults between 21 and 25 years of age. Figure 15.1 shows the development of registered juvenile and young adult delinquency from 1984 until 2013. Young adults (18-20) and juveniles show higher prevalence rates than the other age groups, but the levelling off and decrease in the last 10 years is clearly visible (see Fig. 15.1). This decrease is seen as a result of the widespread crime prevention programs in schools and local communities (see Heinz 2015a).
Female juvenile delinquency is also levelling off according to registered crime statistics, but less than the rates of male juveniles. Self-report studies show that the reporting rate for females increased between 1998 and 2006. The increase of female juvenile delinquency in this period to a major part can be explained by this (see Heinz 2015b: 284). Still the prevalence rates for young females are about half of the ones for males (23.6 versus 43.6, see Baier et al. 2009: 65; Heinz 2015b: 276; with regard to violent offences the ratio is about 1: 3, for shoplifting 1:1).