It is relatively common for young people to commit offences on isolated occasions. However, a small number of young people represent most of the criminality among young people.
Number of persons between 15-20 years of age suspected of offences 2006–2015. Source: Persons suspected of offences
Approximately five out of ten young people state that they have stolen something, purchased stolen property, or committed some other theft-related act during the most recent year. This often involves shoplifting, while car theft and other serious thefts are uncommon.
Criminality is unequally allocated and a lesser percentage of young people are responsible for a significant amount of the total criminality among young people. Those who commit many offences have relatively high frequencies of problems in both school and at home. They often spend time with other young people who have committed offences and have a permissive attitude towards committing offences. This information is obtained from Brå's major school survey, Crime among year-nine youth in Sweden, which describes criminality and other problem among ninth-year boys and girls.
Boys are somewhat more exposed to violence Boys commit aggravated theft and violence offences more often than girls. Shoplifting, experimenting with drugs, and inebriation are examples of behaviour which are more equally allocated between the genders. The survey also calls attention to young people's exposure to, and concern about, crime. Boys are somewhat more exposed to violence than girls; 27 per cent have been exposed to minor violence and 8 per cent to aggravated violence, as compared with girls, at 21 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. A slightly greater number of girls than boys have stated that they were threatened such that they felt afraid.
During the second half of the 1990s, the number of young people who stated that they had committed theft and vandalism declined, while the levels were more stable during the 2000s. In respect of the percentage of young people who committed violent acts, the trend has also been stable during the latter period.
A person becomes subject to criminal sanctions upon reaching 15 years of age. There are special provisions regarding youthful perpetrators including, for example, the way in which police, public prosecutors, and courts handle the matter. Young people may, for example, be sentenced to fines and imprisonment, but persons younger than 21 years of age are seldom imprisoned. The most common sanctions are fines and waivers of prosecution when the matter is dismissed. If a person under the age of 18 has committed an aggravated offence, they are almost exclusively sentenced to secure youth care rather than prison.
Young people are overrepresented in the statistic of persons suspected of offences and also in terms of the number of convictions. In other words, it is more common for a younger person to commit a crime; however it is important to remember that the number of suspected persons in different age groups is affected by population trends. In that light, one can see that the number of persons suspected of offences per 100,000 residents in the younger age groups (15 – 20 years of age) has remained relatively stable during a ten-year period.
Number of conviction decisions by age (15 – 20 years of age) per 100,000 residents, 2004 – 2013. Source: Persons found guilty of offences
It is clearly most common for young people to be convicted of offences like shoplifting and theft. Assault and other so-called offences against the person appear more often in convictions of young people as compared with older age groups, as does vandalism, such as tagging and other types of vandalism.
Young people who were previously found guilty of robbery, taking a car without consent, and threats of violence against public officials are in the risk zone for continued criminality. Brå has conducted a survey regarding so-called strategic offences which shows that certain types of offences are more common among those who have been previously found guilty and thereafter continue to commit offences. Obstruction of justice was also one of the most common debut offences among the risk group. On the other hand, assault, sexual offences, and theft do not serve as typical indicators of continued criminality in the same way.