Youth crime comes down to burglary and drug use

Youth crime has risen only slightly over the past four years Keystone

The typical young offender in Switzerland is aged 15 to 18, male and Swiss, with a penchant for theft or drug abuse.

This content was published on November 10, 2003 - 17:49

That is according to an analysis of the court rulings handed down to young criminals in Switzerland in 2002.

Some 13,000 rulings were made against juveniles last year, a slight rise since 1999.

Around four rulings in five for juvenile crime were handed down to adolescents between the age of 15 and 18. Some 80 per cent of the rulings involved male defendants.

Around two-thirds of those convicted were Swiss youths; the remaining third were foreigners resident in Switzerland.

The statistics show that foreign youths are twice as likely to be hauled before the courts as their Swiss counterparts - foreigners make up roughly 20 per cent of the population.

Theft and drugs

Daniel Fink, of the Federal Statistics Office, says it is important to remember that most crimes committed by juveniles are minor and non-violent.

"It is completely false to claim that all young people are violent," said Fink. "Our figures show that most crimes committed by juveniles are minor, such as theft, driving without a licence or dope smoking."

The study found that the most crimes committed by youths – some 42 per cent - were property related. Most involved burglary, but roughly a third of crimes against property were related to vandalism.

The second most common crime, making up 40 per cent of rulings in 2002, was drug consumption.

Crimes committed on the road were next, with joy riding accounting for most of in this category.

Violence stabilised

The number of violent crimes remained more or less stable from 1999 to 2002, accounting for around 11 per cent of rulings against juveniles.

Some two thirds of violent crimes committed by youths involved bodily harm, while a further quarter were related to threats.

Youths were four times as likely to be victims of violence, particularly in the domestic sphere, than to be found guilty of violent attacks. According to victim support statistics, around 5,500 youths were victims of violence during 2002.

In general, the number of rulings handed down to young offenders has risen only slightly since 1999.

The number of arrests that end up in court also remained more or less constant. For every 100 police reports about a crime committed by a juvenile, between 30 and 70 offenders – depending on the crime – end up being found guilty in court.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Around four sentences in five for juvenile crime involved adolescents (aged 15 to 18).
Some 80 per cent of the rulings involved male defendants.
More than 60 per cent of sentences involved Swiss people, while foreigners residing in Switzerland made up a further 31 per cent, however, foreign youths were two times more likely to be tried in court as their Swiss counterparts.
Theft was the most common crime, followed by drug abuse, then road crimes.
Sentences involving violent crimes remained stable since 1999, making up around 11 per cent of cases each year.

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