Less leniency may be key to preventing youth crime
Serious crimes by teenagers such as the May 1 assault by a middle school girl on her teacher and the April 30 killing of a college student by a group of youngsters have been rising.
Experts argue that the current justice system is too lenient toward youngsters and fails to cope with their crimes that are becoming more brutal in nature.
The Korean Institute of Criminology said in a report Thursday that the number of serious crimes committed by teenagers rose to 3,016 in 2010, a sharp increase from previous years.
Serious crimes are robbery, arson, rape and murder.
“Our society has done a poor job in deterring teenage crime. The problem lies in the nation’s legal system which has been too lenient toward teenage criminals,” said Lee Soo-jung, a criminal psychology professor at Kyonggi University in Seoul.
“They need to be subject to harsher punishment, in order to deter crime,” she said.
Another facet is that young perpetrators are becoming more brutal.
The suspects in the Sinchon college student murder case stabbed the victim more than 40 times in the head, neck and stomach.
Moreover, participants in a murder case in Goyang used a baseball bat to kill their victim; and didn’t show any signs of remorse when they reenacted their crimes, or were asked how they felt about her death.
Their lack of remorse can be explained by the fact that they acted together. When together, they tend to lose their sense of responsibility and go along with the crowd. Together they commit even more serious crimes.
Another explanation is that the teenagers are not able to empathize with others, according to Jeon Young-sil, a researcher at the Crime Prevention and Treatment Research Center at the Korean Institute of Criminology.
“Teenagers are unable to form and maintain relationships based on affection. This is because it is often the case that those who commit the crimes are from underprivileged families unable to provide proper care,” Jeon said.
“It is essential that these families receive support raising their children, so that they are able to mature into psychologically stable individuals,” she continued.
Jeon also stressed that when teenagers start showing signs of anti-social behavior, it is critical for schools and the local community to promptly respond to the troubled youth to prevent them from moving on to criminal acts.