A fresh approach to fighting juvenile crime

As there are two ways to look at juvenile criminals – as perpetrators and as victims – the Public Order Ministry is introducing new policies to deal with a problem that is becoming gradually worse. The police are being increasingly called upon to deal with a new challenge – to satisfy increased demand for more traditional crime-fighting activities and at the same time deal with issues that under different circumstances would be dealt with by other organizations. In the case of juvenile crime, the task of the police is often multidimensional, even though they do not always have the necessary background or guidance from experts, such as social workers, sociologists or psychologists. In many cases, child offenders have had to remain at security police headquarters for days until the proper authority could be found to assume responsibility for them. Heightened demand In recent years, the police have had to deal with new social phenomena such as organized gangs that force children to beg or even prostitute themselves, children from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, many of whom have been abducted or sold to the gangs. At the same time, there has been a rise in criminal activity by Greek children. According to a report by the Attica Security Police Juvenile Department, about 90 percent of child criminals come from broken homes. Since their crimes are mostly petty, the child is usually let off the first time in the care of his or her parents. These children are sent back to the troubled environment that led them to commit those crimes in the first place, without the provision of any guidance for the family. Ministry officials say that in these cases organizations should become involved at this level in order to ascertain whether children are being abused and to provide ongoing, scheduled counseling for them. The ministry’s new policies include the training of police officers in how to handle cases such as these, providing them with information on where to seek help when necessary. This could involve university faculties, with the participation of final-year student volunteers. Meanwhile, the issue is expected to be debated with proposals from all those involved regarding alternatives to detention, such as community service, as with similar programs abroad. As for preventive measures, the police are trying to fight Internet crime, which allows children to buy drugs, learn how to make weapons, fall prey to cults or even be persuaded to commit suicide. The police have set up a special service that looks for these websites. At this stage, the briefing of parents is seen as most important, since their vigilance is considered vital in detecting these cases.

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