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Declining juvenile crime Explanations for the international downturn

Originally published in Dutch under the title ‘’Verdampende jeugdcriminaliteit: Verklaringen van de internationale daling’’Justitiële Verkenningen, vol. 43, no. 1, March 2017 Bert Berghuis and Jaap De Waard* Summary In The Netherlands registered youth crime figures show a spectacular downward trend from 2007 (minus 60%). This decrease can be seen amongst girls and boys, and also amongst ethnic minorities and the native Dutch. This trend can also be observed in a lot of other countries. It is striking that also in international terms youth crime has been capped. A strikingly similar picture is apparent to the one in the Netherlands. The level of the available evidence of the decrease in youth crime in a large number of different countries means that the possibility of a coincidental development occurring at the same time is extremely small, and hence there must be a causal connection. It seems that a number of international developments created a climate favorable for juvenile crime reduction: more (techno)prevention, less use of alcohol, more commitment to schooling, more satisfaction with living conditions, and the use of time. For The Netherlands this goes together with an diminished willingness of the Dutch police to follow up on suspicions that a youngster committed a minor offense. However, the real trigger for the freefall of youth crime seems to be the extensive worldwide dissemination of smartphones and online-games that started in 2006/7. This led to a lot of free time spent ‘looking at screens’ and not being present on the street and public space. So the main factor responsible for the fall in youth crime can be found in the use of free time and a different role and influence of peer groups.

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