Freiburg Cohort Study

Freiburg Cohort Study

The aim of this study is to investigate, via official data, the emergence and evolution of crime, judicial reactions towards crime, and criminal careers. The Freiburg Cohort Study is a long-term project, which, due to its specific cohort design and its extensive period of evaluation, is unique in Germany. The following issues are of central im­por­tance to the study: Which age-dependent courses and dependencies can be observed, based on officially regis­tered crime? To what extent does the fact that one has been entered into official records at an earlier period of life – especially in childhood – determine conflict with the law at a later period? To what extent is the emergence and development of officially registered crime subordinate to a change in society? To what extent are judicial sanc­tions influenced by the type of crime committed and/or biographical factors, and to what extent are such sanctions dependent on social changes? To what extent does law enforcement intervention influence the development of delinquency?

Be­side an ana­lys­is of the de­cision mak­ing pro­cesses and the con­sequences of in­sti­tu­tion­al re­ac­tions fol­low­ing a crim­in­al act, the above men­tioned ques­tions aim spe­cific­ally at the de­pend­ency of de­lin­quency from the stand­point of both in­di­vidu­al de­vel­op­ment (age­ing) and co­in­cid­ent­al so­cial change. Where­as ques­tions con­cern­ing suc­cess­ive events in a life course could, in prin­ciple, be ana­lyzed us­ing con­ven­tion­al lon­git­ud­in­al data (e.g., the data of just one birth co­hort), the design of this study – with data from six co­horts – also en­ables an es­tim­a­tion of the in­flu­ence of chan­ging times (peri­od) to take place e.g., so­cial changes. This is pos­sible be­cause dis­tinct age peri­ods, for ex­ample ad­oles­cence, co­in­cide with dif­fer­ent time peri­ods for each co­hort. So the in­flu­ence of these dif­fer­ent points in time can be es­tim­ated. Fur­ther­more, it is pos­sible to ex­tract a fic­tion­al ideal age de­vel­op­ment that is not de­pend­ent on a spe­cif­ic peri­od of time. So the ef­fects of age and time (peri­od) are able to be sep­ar­ated in this study. Con­sequently, these an­swers could give rise to ques­tions con­cern­ing the al­ter­a­tion of de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or with age and so­cial changes. Thus far, such ques­tions could not be answered or, have only been answered poorly, by oth­er stud­ies:

  • Which age and which fre­quency are typ­ic­al for dif­fer­ent types of de­lin­quency?
  • How do crime-rates change over time (peri­od) for dif­fer­ent types of de­lin­quency?
  • Is there a change in the types of crime con­duc­ted with age, e.g., a change in the ser­i­ous­ness of of­fences com­mit­ted?
  • When the crime-rates change over time, is this be­cause there are more/less life­time per­sist­ent of­fend­ers or do they of­fend more or less fre­quently. Or are these changes caused in the main part by the num­ber of single or two time of­fend­ers?

These kinds of ques­tions out­line the main top­ics of the re­search pro­gram of the Freiburg Co­hort Study. To carry the study out, data has been gathered an­nu­ally since 1986 form every per­son re­gister by the po­lice of the Ger­man fed­er­al state of Baden-Württem­berg. This data relates to the birth co­horts of 1970, 1973, 1975, 1978 and, since 1995, also the birth co­horts of 1985 and 1988. The po­lice re­cords con­sist of a fine graded of­fence cat­egory, in­form­a­tion about co-of­fend­ers, vic­tims, and oth­er cir­cum­stances. Ad­di­tion­ally, all ju­di­cial re­ac­tions con­cern­ing the people in the po­lice data-set are gathered in­so­far as they are avail­able in the Bundeszen­t­ralre­gister. In the case of adults this means all pro­sec­u­tion and court de­cisions with the ex­cep­tion of dis­missed pro­ceed­ings. The in­form­a­tion about these ju­di­cial de­cisions in­cludes the im­posed sanc­tion and a short de­scrip­tion of the case. Both data sources could be linked to­geth­er on the in­di­vidu­al level. Mean­while, a large data­base has emerged, which cov­ers a large range over a grow­ing time peri­od.

The activ­it­ies con­cern­ing the above men­tioned ques­tions (top­ics of re­search) can be as­signed to sev­er­al key as­pects with­in the study:

  • Sup­port of Ba­sic Crime Stat­ist­ics: In the mean time, the data-set of the Freiburg Co­hort Study con­tains sub­stan­tial in­form­a­tion in the field of of­fi­cial crime re­gis­tra­tion. Thus, it is pos­sible to sup­port oth­er re­search­ers with ba­sic crime data (e.g., crime rates etc.) which are much more dif­fer­en­ti­ated than of­fi­cial crime stat­ist­ics and provide some in­form­a­tion that is oth­er­wise not avail­able (e.g., cu­mu­lated rates). A com­pil­a­tion of this kind of data, con­tain­ing stat­ist­ics of po­lice re­gis­tra­tion, was pub­lished in 2002.
    Fur­ther­more, in this study the kind of ju­di­cial re­ac­tions, in­clud­ing both form­al and in­form­al de­cisions, will be ana­lyzed in re­la­tion to ju­ven­ile de­cisions for the peri­od from 1985 to 1996. It is gen­er­ally known that dur­ing this time peri­od ju­di­cial prac­tice clearly changed; however, up un­til now, this has not been ana­lyzed in de­tail.
  • Spe­cif­ic re­search activ­it­ies: Un­der this head­ing fall the nu­mer­ous dis­ser­ta­tions, both com­pleted and on­go­ing (which are lis­ted be­low). Fur­ther­more, the data col­lec­ted in the present pro­ject has also been ap­plied to oth­er re­search activ­it­ies. For ex­ample, see "Sexu­al Vi­ol­ence" or "Im­mig­ra­tion and Crime" and "Hom­icide and Gen­er­al De­lin­quency".

Im­mig­ra­tion and Crime

In Ger­many there ex­ists a very spe­cial group of im­mig­rants - the so called "Aus­siedler". The Aus­siedler are eth­nic Ger­mans, re-im­mig­rat­ing es­pe­cially in the 1990th from East­ern Europe (in part from Po­land and Ro­mania but mainly from the former So­viet Uni­on). They dif­fer from oth­er im­mig­rants in­so­far as they im­me­di­ately re­ceived all the priv­ileges that every Ger­man cit­izen has, in­clud­ing the right to so­cial sup­port. In the last years crime rates among these Aus­siedler seemed to in­crease sig­ni­fic­antly.

Hom­icide and Gen­er­al De­lin­quency

Hom­icide, even more than sexu­al vi­ol­ence, is a rare event af­fect­ing in most cases a known or even re­lated vic­tim. There­fore, hom­icide dif­fers from gen­er­al crime not only in fre­quency or ser­i­ous­ness but also con­cern­ing the vic­tims, which are in the case of gen­er­al crime pre­dom­in­antly an­onym­ous or strangers. Here amongst oth­er ques­tions it was asked wheth­er these dif­fer­ences show up in the age de­pend­en­cies of the crime rates.

Doc­tor­al thes­is in the frame­work of the Freiburg Co­hort Study

  • Chris­ti­an Bare­in­ske: Sank­tion und Leg­al­bewährung im Ju­gend­strafver­fahren in Baden-Württem­berg.
    An ana­lys­is of the re­con­vic­tion of ju­ven­ile of­fend­ers after the form­al or in­form­al com­ple­tion at pro­ceed­ings, base on data of the Freiburg Co­hort Study. (com­pleted)
  • Sven Höfer: Sank­tion­s­kar­ri­er­en (De­vel­op­ment of Sanc­tion Sever­ity in Crim­in­al Ca­reers).
    This thes­is fo­cuses on the de­vel­op­ment of sanc­tion sever­ity in crim­in­al ca­reers. (com­pleted)
  • Carina Tet­al: Pat­terns of Of­fend­ing Be­ha­viour.
    In this pro­ject, pat­terns of of­fences are de­term­ined by ana­lys­ing the sim­il­ar­ity of of­fences on the basis of in­di­vidu­al data. The sim­il­ar­ity of of­fences is em­pir­ic­ally de­term­ined by the fre­quency of the com­mon ap­pear­ance of of­fences with­in the crim­in­al ca­reers of in­di­vidu­als. (com­pleted)



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