Youth crime: more drug use, less dealing

An ecstasy pill - outlawed in Switzerland Keystone

There was a 6% rise in drug use offences among young people in Switzerland in 2017, but convictions for drug dealing dropped by 18%, latest statistics show.

This content was published on July 6, 2018 - 16:25

Narcotics consumption was the most common reason why young people – classified as between the ages of 10 and 18 under Swiss juvenile criminal law – came into contact with the justice authorities last year. There were 5,400 offences. In contrast, drug dealing convictions dropped to 780.

Convictions for violence also rose, albeit only by 2%, the Federal Statistical Office said on Friday. The main drivers of this trend: those under the age of 15 and girls, the statistical office said.

Convictions for serious violence, however, dropped by 44%, to just 42 cases.

Violations of the Swiss criminal code also remained stable at 6,400. There were fewer theft, burglary and criminal damage offences; but others increased, like violations of honour and privacy, which rose by 7%, which the statistical office attributed to social media and internet usage.

Overall, the number of youth convictions remained stable in 2017, at around 12,200. The high point was reached in 2010 at 15,300, after which the rate declined.

Almost half of sentences were carried out via community service, such as cleaning, or by attending a special course. Only around 6% of cases resulted in prison.

‘Protect and educate’

What to do with criminal teenagers – punish or rehabilitate them – has been a subject of debate in recent years. In Switzerland, the official priority is to “protect and educate”External link young offenders.

Since January 1, 2011, criminal procedures for young people have been harmonised throughout Switzerland in the juvenile criminal procedure code.

The age of criminal responsibility – the age at which a person can be punished for an act the law deems to be a criminal offence – is ten in Switzerland.

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