"I think a lot about them," says the eleven-year-old, who is waiting for the bus in front of the Freudenberg comprehensive school. A flat, unadorned functional building, Wednesday afternoon, around 15 pm. At the bus stop there is a boy and a girl who want to go home. Otherwise, no one can be seen far and wide. "There are always police officers and lots of teachers here in the morning," says the sixth-grader as a matter of course. Because at the moment nothing is normal at school.

Katrin Hummel

Editor in the "Life" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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Julia Schaaf

Editor in the "Life" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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Classes will resume the next day. But the thought of twelve-year-old Luise, who walked into the class above the two waiting people, is omnipresent. The boy says, "She always gave me a high five when she saw me, just like that. She treated everyone so nicely." The girl adds: "That was such a love. Once I cried in the schoolyard because I had a fight with my girlfriends. Luise didn't know me at all and arrived just like that. It comforted me that I shouldn't be sad, that things will get better soon."

Freudenberg in a state of emergency, the country shakes: The twelve-year-old, who disappeared last Saturday, has been killed by two other girls; one is said to have been her best friend. The perpetrators are also only twelve and 13 years old – still children. At a press conference of the police on Tuesday, there was talk of numerous stabbings. Because children up to the age of 14 are not criminally responsible, the investigation was discontinued. The young perpetrators are in the care of the youth welfare service.

North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) spoke of a "deeply disturbing peak of violence by minors", the responsible district administrator of an "increasing brutalization of society". State Interior Minister Herbert Reul told the F.A.S.: "If you have daughters and grandchildren yourself, such a terrible act naturally makes you particularly thoughtful and restless."

How can you explain a crime that seems incomprehensible?

"I can't see that our youth is brutalized or getting worse," says Thomas Bliesener, director of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. NRW has recently reported a sharp increase in the number of suspected children and adolescents for the year 2022, even in the case of petty crimes. But what does that mean after the corona restrictions had acted as a brake on child and juvenile delinquency?

Bliesener insists on looking at the figures in the long term. In fact, police statistics, student surveys and insurance data on "Raufunfälle" in the schoolyard largely agree that acts of violence among children and adolescents in Germany have decreased since the noughties. Even a certain increase in the years before the pandemic did not lead back to the former level. In a society that is becoming more sensitive to violence, increased numbers can also reflect the willingness to report.

Girls become criminals earlier

Basically, young people are more likely to be criminal and violent than adults, but this is considered typical of young people and ebbs away again. In girls, the peak of this phase is developmentally earlier than in boys, at the age of 14 to 16 years – but at a significantly lower level. It is actually the gender that makes the decisive difference: If almost 100 of 000,14 German girls up to the age of 2019 were suspected of a violent crime in 60, there were almost four times as many boys with a good 230.