Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Statistics: Historical Trends in Western Society - Problems Of Measurement, Criminality In The Premodern Era, Estimates Of Crime In The Modern Era

Statistics: Historical Trends in Western Society - The Post—world War Ii Crime Wave

percent youth people europe

With the end of World War II and the economic recovery in Europe in the 1950s, crime rates and particularly rates of violent crime began to climb once again throughout the West. In England and Wales, murder and assault cases increased from 13 per 100,000 in 1950 to 144.3 per 100,000 in 1975, for an eleven-fold increase (Gurr, p. 363). During the same period the rate of larceny-theft rose from 847 per 100,000 to 3,659 per 100,000 for a more than four-fold increase, and by 1997 this figure came to 4,083 per 100,000. In Scandinavia much the same pattern unfolded. Between 1960 and 1974–1975, assaults and murders in Finland more than doubled from 127.9 to 282.0 per 100,000, and thefts more than tripled from 886 to 2,850 per 100,000. And in Stockholm between 1950 and 1971 the rates of thefts, assaults, and murders more than quadrupled (Gurr, p. 364).

These increases in Europe were recorded mainly in the cities, and a similar pattern prevailed in the United States. Between 1960 and 1997 violent crimes known to the police in the United States shot up from 160.9 to 610.8 per 100,000, and property complaints rose from 1,726.3 to 4,311.9 per 100,000 (see F.B.I., 1961–1997).

The sources of this wave were certainly varied. They included among others a relative increase in the number of young people, the emergence of well organized juvenile peer groups, and expressionism—a strong belief that one's basic intuitions are accurate and justifiable. Expressionism took root in several hitherto tightly controlled groups—young people, females, blacks, and residents of rural areas. Between 1960 and 1997 the rate of arrests for violent crimes increased 500 percent among youths under 18; in rural counties the arrest rate for violent crimes increased by 251 percent between 1960 and 1980 for the same group (F.B.I., 1960–1997); and for blacks the comparable figure was 215 percent (Uniform Crime Reports, 1961–1997; Statistical Abstracts, 1960–1997). Property crime in the United States showed similar increases. From 1960 to 1977 the rate of females arrested for property crimes rose by 401 percent; the arrest rate of youths under 18 increased by 278 percent; and the arrest rate of blacks for property crimes climbed by 276 percent. Rural counties made a smaller contribution to the overall increase in property crime, rising by just 165 percent in the same period (F.B.I., 1961–1997). Such sharp increases are virtually unprecedented and are given careful consideration elsewhere.

Expressionism seems also to have affected the young people of Europe. After World War II several mildly antisocial groups became prominent in postwar European life: the Teddy Boys and Rockers in London, the Provos in Amsterdam, and the Raggare in Stockholm, and in the 1980s and 1990s other more criminal groups, such as football hooligans, skinheads, and, in the United States, youth gangs. In Europe youth crime was concentrated among young adults from eighteen to twenty-five, but in the United States youthful perpetrators were mainly under eighteen.

Among the explanations for sharp increases in youth crime in both the United States and Europe is the rapidly climbing birthrate after World War II. By the 1960s postwar babies had become teenagers and young adults, and as their numbers in comparison with other population segments grew, so did the percentage of those involved in crime. A study of the impact of the growing numbers of adolescents on postwar American crime revealed that 11.6 percent of the rise in serious crime between 1950 and 1965 was due simply to changes in the relative numbers of those 10–24 years old in the population. Auto theft and forcible rape were affected dramatically, up 13.8 and 47.1 percent, respectively; and homicide and aggravated assault were affected least of all—just 5.5 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively (Ferdinand, 1970).

But the young people in the 1960s had an impact on Western society not simply by virtue of their growing numbers. They were becoming increasingly conscious of their social and political position, and in the 1960s the dissenting voices of young people in Berkeley, Paris, and elsewhere were heard demanding change. This aggregation of young people into political, social, and seriously delinquent groups is a relatively modern development and is a major factor in the elevated crime rates of people at all levels of society. Young people learn the attitudes and techniques of delinquency and crime through the dominant youth culture, through their friends and peers, and as these peer networks have expanded, the problems of delinquency and youth crime also climbed sharply. In the United States youth gangs—many of them led by young adults—have supplanted traditional organized crime groups in several American cities, such as Chicago and Los Angeles. The rapid rise in youth crime in the postwar period is to some extent a consequence of an expanding youth culture, the growth of expressionism, and a rejection of traditional bourgeois values.

A critical view of conservative Victorian values was inspired partially by the civil rights struggles during the 1960s and 1970s, though such criticism has roots back at least to the 1920s and to Sinclair Lewis's Main Street and Babbit. Critical themes were embraced generally by young people after World War II, and the youth of Europe seized on iconoclastic themes as well. By the 1900s "hooligans" and "skinheads" in Europe had also become troublesome with their criminal behavior.

Statistics: Historical Trends in Western Society - Conclusion [next] [back] Statistics: Historical Trends in Western Society - Criminality In The Twentieth Century

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or