Juvenile cybercrime in the Netherlands

Juvenile cybercrime in the Netherlands

Little is known about juvenile cyber offenders. Who are they? What characteristics do they possess? And how do they differ from traditional offline offenders?

To acquire such insights, researchers from the WODC used a self-report study on juvenile delinquency—that included measures of online crimes—to provide answers to these and other questions, which were presented in two research reports.

The reports differentiate between two types of online crime: (1) cyber-dependent crimes, which concerns the use of modern technology to target ICT-components, such as computers or networks, and (2) cyber-enabled crimes, which is the use of modern technology to commit ‘traditional’ crimes. An example of the former would be hacking one’s personal computer, and an example of the latter would be online sales or purchase fraud.

The first report ‘Juvenile crime in the virtual world’ concerns the differences and similarities between traditional juvenile offenders and both types of online offenders. The study suggests that young people who only commit cyber-dependent crimes can be considered a ‘new’ type of offender. Among other things, cyber-dependent offenders distinguish themselves from other offenders due to their high involvement in playing videogames, while having few friends that commit cyber-dependent crimes themselves.

Moreover, the report examines whether a shift from offline offending to online offending is a plausible explanation for the observed juvenile crime drop in recent years. As online offending is harder to detect and prosecute by law enforcement than offline offending, such a shift could lead to a drop in officially registered crime, while in reality crime levels would remain stable or perhaps even increase. However, the researchers find little to no support for this hypothesis.

The second report concerns a technical and methodological report and explores, among other topics, whether or not self-report measures can be used to estimate the number of online offenses committed by Dutch youths. For the self-report measure used in this particular study, the answer is ‘no’. One of the reasons cited is the broad operationalization of several online offenses. This broadness makes it hard to distinguish whether someone admits to having committed an actual offense, or whether the item represents less serious misdemeanours or not-illegal high risk behaviour. Including such behaviours would lead to an overestimation of more serious cybercrime.