According to the official data of the Police, last September alone a total of 1,353 minors were arrested for various offenses
A seventeen-year-old student is attacked with kicks and punches by a group of ten people outside a high school, in the center of Thessaloniki, where he studies. He is taken to hospital with abrasions on his face. The cause seems to have been an “underlying student rivalry”, as the school’s principal would say, on the occasion of previous elections for the fifteen-member council. After the incident, the 17-year-old’s parents file a request to transfer their son to another school.
The mother of a thirteen-year-old girl from western Thessaloniki complains that a twelve-year-old put out a cigarette on her daughter’s chest, after a misunderstanding between them, which ended in a fight. The parents of the girls are called to the police station, where both high school students are present, presenting their own perspective on the alleged incident.
Four 17-year-olds are arrested after a peer complained that he suffered physical violence and threats with a gun to pay off a debt from an earlier drug deal between them. The incident took place in Tagarades, Thessaloniki, when the complainant was returning from school and was recorded by the security cameras of a nearby store. The minor defendants remain in detention for five days, before being taken to apologize – in the presence of their parents – to the investigating officer in Thessaloniki. They are released on the restrictive condition that they attend a twice-monthly psychological program.
The above are just three incidents that were recorded recently in Thessaloniki and occupied the local – and not only – current affairs. Similar episodes are highlighted almost daily by the EL.AS incident reports, reinforcing the sense of the escalation of youth violence and criminality.
According to the official data of the Police, only last September a total of 1,353 minors were arrested for various crimes and 1,201 cases were filed for the same number of cases (the majority of cases concern Attica).
At the top of the offenses are thefts and robberies
The lion’s share is held by crimes related to theft and robbery, so-called property crimes (292 arrests), followed by violations of the KOK and road safety (242). In the third place of offenses are physical injuries (86), followed by offenses related to drugs (75) and weapons (28), while in the same month there were 17 arrests related to offenses against sexual freedom (rape, child pornography, genital insult dignity etc.). It is noteworthy – according to the reading of the data – that during the same period there were seven arrests for forming and joining a criminal organization.
The data from the Juvenile Courts
Police sources with knowledge of youth and adolescent crime report to APE-MPE that “there is an increase in medium and low delinquency”, which is reflected quantitatively in the cases brought to the competent Juvenile Courts. It is characteristic that during the whole of 2022, the Single-Member Juvenile Court of Thessaloniki (which deals with low and medium crime, in contrast to the Three-Member Court (which hears cases for which, if it were done by an adult, would be threatened with life imprisonment), dealt with 1474 cases , when the corresponding number in 2019, i.e. before the pandemic, was 661. The corresponding numbers for 2023 seem to surpass those of the previous year, since only in the first half of the current year, 826 cases were brought to be heard in the same Court.
Criminologists dealing with such cases also observe some important qualitative differences in individual crimes compared to the past. For example, they mention violent crimes, where, as they point out, there is more brutality in the execution of the acts but also a decrease in the average age of those involved in such incidents.
Violent crimes in Thessaloniki
As regards violent crimes, as described in articles 308 and 309 of the Criminal Code (simple and dangerous bodily harm), in Thessaloniki no significant quantitative differences are seen in the last two years.
According to the data available from the General Police Directorate of Thessaloniki, in 2022 44 cases of bodily harm were solved and 85 minors were charged (8 of them for dangerous harm), while in the first 9 months of 2023 the corresponding cases were 19 with a total of 35 perpetrators (the 10 for dangerous injuries). In 2021, during which the restrictions due to the pandemic were in force, a total of 10 cases of bodily harm were solved, as a result of incidents of violence with 16 perpetrators (6 for serious harm).
The group psychology and culture of competition behind juvenile violence
Group psychology and the current social culture that fosters competition seem to influence and intensify the phenomenon of violence among minors, according to Dr. of Psychology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) Apostolos Kaliambos.
He, speaking to APE-MPE, points out that “impulsivity prevails in a group, while rational thinking, the sense of accountability and responsibility decreases. Group participants tend to conform to illogical criteria in how it operates while decisions are not made individually. In addition, there is polarization, the crisis is clouded and the phenomenon is magnified when the group comes into conflict with another group.”
At the same time, as he states, on the one hand children need to feel that they belong to a group, which encourages their participation in any kind of group, on the other hand violence is reinforced as a behavior by the hate speech that appears in mass media and the internet , the culture of competition, even the types of music that the new generation listens to that glorify the apotheosis of material goods, project the ideal state of physical strength, the acquisition of money and the imposition of the female gender.
Faced with this situation, Mr. Kaliambos considers that the most susceptible are young men and women who do not have support, warmth, an understanding relationship with their parents and emotional coverage from their family environment, or are exposed to violent and punishing behaviors on the one hand, on the other hand to indifference or non-existent parental supervision.
As far as the individual is concerned, factors that may be behind juvenile violence are poor communication skills, excessive exposure to violence, a tendency to show violent behavior, an orientation to physical strength, a lack of empathy and low emotional intelligence.
What would a school that taught cooperation and anger management look like?
Dr. of Psychology at the AUTH believes strongly in the role that school can play as, as he says, instead of just imparting knowledge, it has a lot of scope to emphasize the emotional and psychological needs of young people.
“We should emphasize programs through which children will learn respect, cooperation, participation, taking initiative in things they care about, anger management, conflict resolution, improving communication, managing stress and many more” he characteristically emphasizes and points out that such a change can contribute to putting an embankment on violence.
Parents should never rest
As for the role of parents and the family, he calls on them to never rest, to keep in mind that they should constantly improve and seek sources of information, collaboration with psychologists and educators as well as sources of support based on the good of the child. “A parent can work all day, not have a good time, and when he gets home, lash out at the kids. But on the other hand, children have needs and parents must understand them” he adds.
Speaking specifically about children’s need to belong to a group and receive acceptance from it, he suggests that parents direct their children but also participate in creative activities, in processes of searching for one’s personal inclinations and talents, and in actions from which they derive joy, satisfaction and a sense that life has meaning.
The tip of the iceberg
In any case, he emphasizes that violence between minors is a multifactorial phenomenon, in which, in addition to all of the above, the pandemic, technology and changes in society also play a role. “Nothing is born by itself, while many times we only see the tip of the iceberg, the symptoms of a situation and ignore what preceded it,” he comments.
Criminal treatment – reformative measures
It is noted that those criminally responsible, on whom reformative – therapeutic measures are imposed, are minors over 15 years of age. Among the main reformative measures imposed in the act, provided for juvenile offenders are reprimand, the assignment of responsible custody of the minor to his parents, the assignment of custody of the minor to the juvenile probation service, the provision of community service by the minor, monitoring by the minor of social and psychological programs in state, municipal, community or private institutions, the compensation of the victim, the reconciliation of the perpetrator and the victim, the placement of the minor in a treatment institution and the assignment of the intensive care and supervision of the minor to the service of juvenile guardians .
Based on statistics kept by the Juvenile Probation Service, the reformative measure most often imposed by the Single-Member Juvenile Court is reprimand, followed by the assignment of custody of the minor to the Juvenile Probation Service, the minor’s attendance of social and psychological programs , the compensation of the victim and the assignment of responsible custody of the minor to his parents.
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