Crime: Violence among girls - Why do teenagers strike?

They are said to have threatened, beat and filmed their victims.

Crime: Violence among girls - Why do teenagers strike?

They are said to have threatened, beat and filmed their victims. There was horror when the allegations against girls from Heilbronn and Rastatt became known last year. Today (1:30 p.m.) a court is dealing with the Heilbonn case behind closed doors.

Criminal youth gangs are generally associated with male teenagers. Girls as perpetrators are still rare and surprising. The alleged Heilbronn case is an example: A group of girls are held responsible for two dozen physical injuries.

Another outbreak of violence in Rastatt, Baden, where a 14-year-old was beaten until she was hospitalized by two other young people, caused a nationwide stir in mid-January. Footage circulated on social media showing two girls beating up their victim at the train station and kicking the victim on the ground several times in the head and body.

A year ago, the martyrdom of a 13-year-old in Heide, Schleswig-Holstein, sparked a debate about whether earlier criminal responsibility could be an effective means of combating juvenile crime. Four female teenagers aged 14 to 17 were each ordered to work 50 hours for beating and humiliating the 13-year-old in February 2023 and filming the act. The case of a twelve-year-old from Freudenberg in North Rhine-Westphalia shows what brutality children are capable of. A 12-year-old and a 13-year-old confessed to stabbing the girl in March last year.

According to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), the number of cases in which girls committed violence against other girls reached a sad peak in 2022 at 2,295. In the previous nine years, the value was always below 2,000. The last time the 2,000 cases were exceeded was in 2012 with 2,062 cases. Violent crimes involving at least one female victim under the age of 18 and at least one female suspect under the age of 18 were statistically recorded.

Female suspects remain “isolated cases”

The Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Police Office has been observing this development for some time. “However, these remain isolated cases,” says a spokeswoman. The Heilbronn clique does not fall into the “gangs” category. According to the Federal Court of Justice, a gang is a group of at least three people who commit crimes such as coercion, threats or damage to property and who come together expressly or tacitly to do so. In contrast, girls banded together in changing, situational, often spontaneous formations.

Nevertheless, the Heilbronn group of at least ten and up to 30 violent girls became known as a girls' gang. Some of them are suspected of damaging property and causing bodily harm in at least 23 cases between July and August last year. Most recently, five of the girls are said to have scratched a car and injured two 20-year-old women on the night of August 13th. A large part of the acts were filmed with cell phones.

Three people suspected of being involved are therefore standing before the Heilbronn district court. Because of the accused's young age, there will be no public hearing. If young people break the law before their 14th birthday, they are considered incompetent and go unpunished.

Insults play an important role

An expert has been observing violence against female children and young people for years - sometimes more, sometimes less. The two cases in Baden-Württemberg last year were already a high point, says Dagmar Preiß from the Stuttgart girls' health shop. They are typical because the aggressiveness is directed against victims of the same sex. Insults played a large role in conflicts between girls, especially when they were accompanied by the threatened distribution and actual publication of nude photos.

One of the more common crimes committed by girl gangs is department store theft. “Clothes, cosmetics and bags are taken from top to bottom,” explains the social scientist. The groups are often led by one or two particularly bold girls who do not shy away from violence, but who refrain from massive forms because of the gender-typical need for harmony, as Preiß explains. "Girls risk losing status if they use too much violence, while bosses in boys' gangs can underpin their claim to leadership with particular brutality." The group members cannot be assigned to any social class: “It goes from special needs students to high school students.”

Mostly crimes in public spaces

The LKA spokeswoman refers to studies that suggest that the psychological burden of the Corona measures will persist in the medium term, especially for children and young people. "This represents a risk factor for violent crime among minors, especially if they have no one to show them how to deal with the stress," she explains.

BKA experts emphasize that the low number of group crimes cannot hide the negative effects this could have on society. These are often serious crimes with a high level of criminal energy, which are largely committed in public spaces and always within the group. “In addition to the sometimes serious consequences for the physical and mental health of the victims, who are usually of the same age, such crimes can lead to a lasting negative impact on the feeling of security within the population,” the BKA said.