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New approach helps to slash juvenile crime

2014-11-27 09:24 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

The number of juvenile offenders in the city more than halved between 2007 and last year, according to a new report.

Last year's total of 1,045 represented a drop of more than 60 percent from a peak of 2,682 six years earlier, the study by Shanghai Higher People's Court said.

The court attributed the decline to the efforts of local courts to control and prevent crimes involving minors.

Rather than incarcerating every offender, courts now use alternative methods, such as education, psychological intervention and the resolution of guardianship disputes, to help combat crime, the report said.

Gu Xuelei, a judge at the juvenile court under the Changning District People's Court, said the decrease could also be attributed to the fact that children from migrant families have now been brought under the crime prevention umbrella.

"Migrant offenders account for a large proportion of juvenile crime," he said.

"Since 2000, huge numbers of migrants have flooded into Shanghai. They often spend their days and nights working, and neglect their children. In such cases, it's easy for innocent kids to go astray," Gu said.

In the past, juvenile crime prevention efforts focused mainly on native children, he said.

"But since 2007, all migrant children who have lived in the city for at least six months have been included in the crime prevention scheme," Gu said.

"Also, our juvenile court, which originally dealt only with criminal cases involving minors, now hears both criminal and civil cases, which means we can get involved with petty criminals earlier," he said.

Last year, about 85 percent of all juvenile offenders came from migrant families. The most common offenses were theft, robbery, affray and intentional injury, the report said

"About 80 percent of the cases I handled in the year were opportunist crimes," Gu said.

One case involved two boys who attacked and robbed a woman cyclist after watching an action movie in which a similar incident took place, he said.

However, soon after committing the crime the boys realized what they had done and apologized to the woman and returned her purse.

"Unfortunately, she'd already called police," he said.

"Many of the offenders I dealt with last year were also poorly educated, and lacked experience of living in a big city. They want to live in Shanghai but don't really know how to," Gu said.

About 90 percent of 7,260 offenders recorded between 2009 and 2013 failed to finish middle school, the report said.

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