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Causes of the Decline in Juvenile Crime

There are various explanations for this decline. The development of public policies regarding childhood and social welfare, which began several decades ago, may well be yielding results today (Acosta et al. 2012). It is widely considered that the design of a juvenile crime policy, and specifically, the development of community intervention programs as an integral part of a society with well- structured social services, could be responsible for this decline (Redondo et al. 2012). In the same way, the trend toward the use of diversion measures (reparation, conciliation, community service) for minor crimes or offenses, which otherwise would have remained unredressed; or the creation of specific teams to intervene with minors under 14 years who commit crimes but are not typically unprotected, have also possibly had an effect on the reduction of juvenile delinquency (Bernuz et al. 2006).

New generations have also experienced the effect of greater formal and informal control, which could also explain the decrease in criminal behavior among young people. Greater control limits their opportunities for antisocial behavior and increases the risk of loss which stems from involvement in risk-taking behavior. A comparison of the data from ISRD-I and ISRD-II allows us to see that adolescents spend more time at home and/or with their families, which increases supervision and reduces time spent outside with their peers. We also see that detection of juvenile criminal behavior by adults (police, teachers, parents) was significantly higher in 2006 (Fernandez-Molina et al. 2009).

The data from Spain also shows how opportunity has a significant effect on crime. Furthermore, as in other countries (Farrell et al. 2014), the increase in car security systems has led to a dramatic decrease in car theft. However, the emergence of the Internet and the organization of free time around the new technologies as methods of communication and enjoyment is associated with a rise in criminal behaviors in this scenario, such as illegal downloading,[1] which is sometimes not really regarded as “wrong.”

Finally, these data illustrate how the hypothesis put forward by some authors to explain the decrease in delinquency as a result of economic well-being (Rosenfeld and Fornango 2007) does not hold up in the case of Spain. The country has been in the grip of a severe economic crisis since 2007 and it is precisely in this setting that juvenile delinquency has decreased. Similarly, the self-report data show that the highest rates of self-reported juvenile delinquency, in contrast to this hypothesis, are those from the time of the greatest economic well-being ever experienced in Spain. The decrease in delinquency when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) falls has sometimes been justified in the case of adults, as a reflection of less formal social control due to a reduction in resources in the fight against delinquency (Brandariz 2015). Nevertheless, there is no evidence in Spain of a significant reduction of the number of police officers during the recession.[2]

  • [1] There are still no data available regarding the exact dimensions or the evolution over recent yearsof other criminal behaviours on the Internet, such as sexting or grooming, which are considered tobe increasing among young people.
  • [2] See Annual Report (2014) Ministry of Home Affairs, p. 154.
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