New figures appear to confirm a perceived rise in violence in urban areas and youth crime in Switzerland.This content was published on February 9, 2007 - 12:45
A study by the accident and emergency unit at Bern University Hospital also shows that the number of serious injuries caused by altercations has doubled in five years.
Zurich cantonal police have released statistics that show that, despite an overall ten per cent fall in crime across the city in 2006, the figures for young people have risen by three per cent to become their "number one concern".
Among the 32,908 presumed criminals charged in 2006, 4,346 were under-18 – a new record, according to police chief Bernhard Herren.
The trend was particularly worrying when taking into account serious crimes such as actual and grievous bodily harm, which had increased by 135 per cent.
Herren singled out young people of Balkan origin as the main culprits, representing 52.6 per cent.
The police chief called on Thursday for drastic measures be taken "right up to the expulsion of their whole family".
The Basel police, which have also published their crime figures, said that the proportion of young people of foreign origin involved in crime corresponded to the size of their communities in the city, and also pointed the finger at the Balkan region.
Daniel Fink, head of the criminality and penal law department at the Federal Statistics Office, attempted to put the figures into context.
"What has increased is society's attitude towards violence," he commented. "A fight between young kids or a slap by an adult used to be something relatively normal, which were sorted out between them. Today these kind of acts result more frequently in a complaint being filed."
But other figures appear to confirm violence is becoming more widespread.
According to the Bern study, in 2001 the city's university hospital treated 150 people for serious wounds caused by fighting; in 2006 the figure was around 300.
Aris Exadaktylos, head of the hospital's emergency clinic, said the numbers reflected not only a general increase in violence but also a specific "weekend phenomenon".
"Before 2001 the brawls were spread over the whole week," he said. "Since then there has been a noticeable concentration on Friday and Saturdays."
Prevention specialists have highlighted the large increase in the amount of alcohol consumed at weekends.
Emergency doctors maintain that the injuries are also getting worse – the number of serious head injuries for example has doubled and patients are spending more time in hospital.
Exadaktylos described these developments as "unsettling", adding that Switzerland is getting nearer to the European average.
According to the university hospital's study, those who get caught up in the fights are not primarily outsiders, the unemployed or asylum-seekers.
Sixty per cent are Swiss, and the typical person in fights is 25 and has an education and a job.
The emergency doctors say a national inquiry is necessary to find out the reasons behind the increase in violence.
swissinfo with agencies
14,106 youths (11,189 boys and 2,917 girls) were convicted of crimes in 2005, according to the Federal Statistics Office. The figure is up about 2,000 on 1999.
62.7% of the convicted youths are of Swiss nationality.
The number of convictions for driving offences, attacks against people and property-related crimes has been on the increase since 1999.
But the authorities recorded a drop in the number of drug-related offences.
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