At the request of the government of the Netherlands, researchers studied trends in juvenile crime and violence in member states of the European Union.
Because of countries' differing definitions of "juvenile" and "violent crimes," the researchers generally restricted the study to comparing trends based on police data on arrests and convictions. Because historical data were not uniformly available for every member country, most of the research emphasized crime trends from the early or mid-1980's to the mid-1990's. In every country studied, the rate of juvenile violence increased sharply in the mid-1980's or early 1990's. Nonviolent crimes committed by juveniles also increased significantly. Generally, the victims of violent crimes committed by juveniles were other juveniles. In most countries, the crime rate among adults either remained stable across the years or increased moderately. In most of the countries surveyed, the rising juvenile crime rate accompanied increasing unemployment and poverty rates. The problem of unemployment was exacerbated in the early 1990's by an influx of immigrants from countries that had been under communist rule. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, thousands of people crossed the borders into Western European nations. The researchers found that those immigrants who could not overcome language and cultural barriers to find employment were more likely to engage in criminal activity than were those who found jobs and became integrated into society. They attached greater significance to the findings from interviews with 100 young German men who were arrested for violent crimes. Although many came from low-income households, the most common thread in their life histories was that they came from families in which violence was common; they were beaten, their siblings were beaten, or one of their parents was beaten. Directions for future research are discussed.
Date Published: May 1, 1998