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TRENDS IN JUVENILE CRIME OVER THE PERIOD 2004-2014

As in many other countries, juvenile crime has been perceived as a serious social problem, in Poland. It was particularly in the 1990s, the first decade after the political and economic transformation, when a growing number of juvenile offenses was proposed by some criminologists to be one of three dangerous phenomenon, the other two being economic crimes and organized crimes. At the same time it was stressed that changes in juvenile delinquency had not been merely quantitative, but also qualitative, because juvenile crime had become increasingly violent (Siemaszko 2000). Such conclusions were based on the anal?ysis of statistical data published by the police. A self-report delinquency study carried out in the school year 2002/2003 on a national random school sample of 13- to 16-year-old youth did not confirm such an alarming picture of juvenile crime. The results suggested that the prevalence of criminal behaviors among youth was significantly lower than publically perceived. Respondents mainly admitted to nonserious behavior, mostly to taking parents’ money without their consent, shoplifting, buying, or receiving stolen goods. However, they also frequently admitted to behavior which was typical for youth but of a more serious nature, such as brawl or assault (Kossowska 2007). It should be added that the results of the self-report delinquency study have to be interpreted with caution because only youth attending schools participated in the research which did not cover young people who dropped out of school.

The current picture of juvenile crime is unclear due to the lack of reliable data. After 2002/2003 no further self-report delinquency studies were conducted on a national sample. Therefore, there are no self-reported data which would allow for an assessment of the long-term trends in juvenile offending. Before 2013 the basic source of knowledge about trends in juvenile crime was the official police statistic. In the period from 1990 to 2012, the police recorded the number of both juvenile offenses and juvenile suspects. They recorded offences or fiscal offenses as ‘juvenile offenses’ when in the course of police actions taken before referring the case to the family court it was confirmed that the offense was committed by a suspect who was at least 13 but under 17 years of age. Undoubtedly, police statistics did not reflect the actual size of youth crime, because they might be affected by many factors, such as the changing social climate around juvenile crime, the concentration of the police work on certain juvenile lawbreakers, or organizational changes in the police forces. The official police data, however, were collected in a consistent manner and could form the basis for cautious estimations of tendencies in juvenile crime.

In 2013 the manner of collecting data on juvenile crime by the police was modified. Juvenile offenses were recorded by the police only after receiving the information from the family court on the institution and completion of juvenile proceedings concerning a ‘punishable act’ (Komenda Glowna Policji 2014). In 2014 police statistics on crimes did not include offenses committed by juveniles, because in accordance with the amended methodology the specification of the number of juveniles who committed ‘punishable acts’ took place during court proceedings after the referral of the case by the police to the family court (Glowny Urzqd Statystyczny 2015). Due to modified methodology of collecting data on juvenile offenses and juvenile suspects the data recorded by the police before 2013 cannot be compared with later data.

As can be seen from Fig. 17.1, the numbers of both juvenile offenses and juvenile suspects recorded by the police were relatively stable in the years 2004-2008. In the next years (2008-2011) the number of juvenile offenses went up although at the same time the number of juvenile suspects remained stable or even diminished. In 2012 the upward trend concerning juvenile crime reversed. In 2013 the

Number of juvenile crime and juvenile suspects in the years 2004-2013. Source

Figure 17.1. Number of juvenile crime and juvenile suspects in the years 2004-2013. Source: Komeda Glowna Policji. (2014). Przestqpczosc nieletnich w latach 1990-2013. Retrieved from http://statystyka.policja.pl/st/wybrane-statystyki/przestepczosc-nieletni/ 50256,dok.html.

numbers of juvenile offenses as well as juvenile suspects continued to decline, but data coming from that year might be influenced by changes in data collection.

Family court statistics reveal the decline in the number of juveniles adjudicated due to ‘punishable acts’ in the years 2004-2014 (Fig. 17.2). What is interesting is the fact that in the same period the number of juveniles adjudicated due to ‘signs of demoralization’ remained at a relatively high level. Generally, under the 1982 JA, which introduced proceedings in juvenile cases concerning ‘signs of demoralization,’ the number of juveniles adjudicated in such proceedings grew at a much faster rate than the number of juveniles adjudicated due to ‘punishable acts’ (Stando-Kawecka 2015).

 
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