NEWS

One in 10 senior high school pupils in trouble

Violent incidents between juveniles and offenses committed at younger and younger ages is common knowledge but nothing much is being done to deal with the problem. A policeman talking to a newspaper about juvenile crime in Piraeus said that no one speaks about the problem publicly. «There is an unofficial omerta (code of silence) taking place between parents, neighbors and the authorities. Even local mayors restrict themselves to simply issuing reports on crime every one or two years in cooperation with the local police station.» According to a survey by Athens University’s criminal research laboratory (headed by Professor Nestor Kourakis) at Athens senior high schools in the 2002-03 school year, 10 percent of pupils presented behavioral problems. Another survey by Ioanna Tsingalou and the National Center for Social Research (EKKE) for the same year showed that 9-11 percent of junior and senior high school pupils skip school from one to 10 days a year out of fear. Beatings a sport And it is not only teenagers who are at risk. Psychologist Chrysoula Mavraki of the Child’s Smile organization said that its hotline (1056) receives reports of violent acts being committed by children as young as 6. «And these aren’t simply fights about taking someone’s ball. Children have made beatings a sport. It is like the adults who film violence for fun,» she said. The Child’s Smile hotline has received thousands of calls in the past week reporting violence at schools. «Many parents felt trapped. They go to the teacher, to the headmaster, or even to local education authorities, but it is like talking to a brick wall,» said Maria Yiannouli, of the Child’s Smile. «They would receive replies such as: ‘It isn’t that serious. It happens in all schools.’ Now these parents feel as if they are joining in a united protest. Parents’ associations also have a responsibility. That’s what they are for.» The problem of juvenile violence is evident in the figures. Police and court records show that the age of perpetrators of robberies, thefts, drug pushing, setting up gangs, bodily harm and even manslaughter are increasing in frequency and at younger and younger ages. During the 90s the average age of juvenile violators was 16-17, now it is 13-14, with serious crimes not unknown among 7-12 year olds. According to Athens Juvenile Court statistics, 103 children aged 7-12 were brought before the court in 2001-02. The following year, this number rose to 207. Of these, 64 were tried for serious crimes. So in just one year, the percentage of children in this age group out of the total number of juveniles brought to court rose by 2.35 percent to 8.9 percent. In 2001-02, the court tried 2,643 juvenile cases and convicted 1,703 of them. The following year, the corresponding figures were 3,025 and 1,860. On January 1, 2004, there were 496 juvenile inmates at the children’s detention centers of Avlona, Cassaveteia and Volos. On Jan. 1 of this year, the number had grown to 576. An interesting detail emerges: In 2004, a total of 1,163 Greek children were brought to trial and just 123 foreigners.