The number of juvenile suspects in criminal investigations has grown over the past decade, even as the population of young Taiwanese continues to decrease, indicating that today’s youth are struggling to face increasing societal and psychological pressures, a government researcher says.
National Police Agency statistics show that there were 598 juvenile suspects aged six to 11 and 12,038 suspects aged 12 to 17 nationwide last year, up from 375 and 10,540 respectively, in 2004.
The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) yesterday reported that a study by National Taipei University on behalf of the Academy for the Judiciary, a Ministry of Justice agency, found that the number of juvenile criminals aged seven to 11 last year was 10.68 of every 100,000 in that age group, while there were 612.17 criminals for every 100,000 aged 12 to 17.
However, it was not clear if the numbers referred to youngsters with suspected involvement in crimes or convicted juvenile delinquents.
Wu Yung-ta (吳永達), head of the academy’s Crime Prevention Research Center, said that the rise in juvenile delinquency was mainly caused by “psychological factors,” including a lack of self-restraint, disorderly personalities and a lack of basic knowledge of the law.
He said the most common offenses committed by minors were related to drugs and sexual offenses. In terms of drug-related crimes, the number of delinquents surged from 290 in 2004 to 1,257 last year.
“Parents’ being unaware of where their children hang out after school is the main cause behind these two offenses,” the Liberty Times quoted Wu as saying.
He said authorities should focus on addressing juvenile crime, or else “when they grow up, their chances of productively contributing [to society] will not be high.”
The situation is particularly dire because of the nation’s aging society, he said, suggesting measures aimed at offering opportunities to educate youngsters uninterested in schoolwork and those from disadvantaged homes.
The nation’s birth rate has dropped steadily since 2004, when 206,936 babies were born, with the exception of 2012 — the Year of the Dragon — when the nation recorded 218,944 newborns thanks to the traditional belief that “dragon babies” are lucky and have desirable characteristics.
The number of newborns resumed its decline last year with just 183,744 born, according to Ministry of the Interior data.
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