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Did you know that the increase in youth crime in 2022 is only partly due to post-pandemic normalization effects?

July 2024

In 2022, Germany recorded a remarkable increase in police-registered child and youth crime. Based on fundamental criminological insights into youth crime and crime statistics and a more differentiated analysis of the Police Crime Statistics (PKS), ISS researchers Christof Nägel and Clemens Kroneberg have discussed possible causes for this post-pandemic rise in police-registered delinquency.

The descriptive study shows that the increase is primarily concentrated with regard to violent and theft offenses and among 12- to 16-year-olds. Further simulation analyses suggest that the lifting of contact-reducing measures led to a strong, age-typical rise in police-registered crime among adolescents. However, these post-pandemic normalization effects do not fully explain the observed rise in the 12- to 16-year-old age group.

The two sociologists argue that temporal displacement effects offer the most plausible and parsimonious explanation for this excessive increase: During the COVID-19 years, these cohorts had fewer opportunities to experience age-typical criminogenic activities, such as visiting entertainment districts with peers, causing some adolescents to engage in these activities only after the containment measures were lifted. Such temporal displacement effects are likely only temporary, but the ISS researchers' theoretical discussion suggests that the disruption of schools as places of social learning, as an early warning system, safe spaces, and as places for uncovering domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a further increase in youth crime in the future. According to the most recently published PKS, this projected rise in youth crime indeed occurred in 2023. Effective strategies are needed to mitigate the long-term impacts of the pandemic on youth crime and to strengthen preventive measures that restore the social functions of schools and other protective mechanisms.