Crime For Members

Are there 'young gangs' forming in Vienna?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Are there 'young gangs' forming in Vienna?
A view of Leopoldstadt, Vienna. Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash

If you read Austrian tabloid media, Vienna has a 'gang' problem, with several crimes committed by groups of young people in recent months. But is that true?


Austrian tabloid media jumps on such stories: a group of teenage girls breaking into cars in Linz or vandalism and robberies committed by young people in Vienna. Particularly in the capital, it seems that there was a rise in crimes committed by groups of young people. But does that mean that Vienna has a gang problem?

According to the newspaper daily Der Standard, the Vienna Provincial Police Directorate (LPD) repeatedly states that the much-cited youth gangs do not exist but that there is "an increase in young people appearing in groups and committing offences".  

What does that mean, and what is the difference between "young people appearing in groups and committing offences" and gangs?

According to the police: "The term gang is commonly used in everyday language - without a precise definition in this context. In criminal law, however, the term is clearly defined. From a criminal law perspective, a gang is an organised, hierarchically structured group of people intent on committing offences on an ongoing basis."

READ ALSO: Which crimes are on the rise in Austria?

According to the police, they are dealing with "groups that come together spontaneously" and are not "hierarchically organised." These groups mostly commit "thefts or minor robberies" but are not criminal organisations. 

So, technically, Vienna does not have a "youth gang" problem, but it does have an increase in young people in groups committing crimes - though the police didn't share official numbers.


A recent Kurier report stated that the number of crimes committed by young people and children under the age of 14 has doubled in the last ten years.

At the same time, there has only been a slight increase among young people over the age of 14 and even a decrease among young adults. The main crimes committed by young people and adolescents are theft, damage to property, assault, burglary and dangerous threats.

Christian Holzhacker, Head of Education at the Association of Viennese Youth Centers, told Der Standard that it is important not to "stigmatise" an age group and that the word gang is often used in an "inflationary way". He points out that in relation to the size of the Viennese population, the number of minors committing crimes is small, even if it is increasing.

He also highlighted that stigmatising regions or groups of young people who get together in public spaces is not the answer. "If you want to fight crime, you have to look at the realities of the lives of the people who have committed crimes," he said.

READ ALSO: Is Vienna a safe city to visit?


What are the police doing about the crime?

Austria's federal criminal police office has gathered a new special task force to combat youth crime (EJK). According to the Ministry of the Interior, the idea is to recognise the new phenomenon and combat youth gangs in Austria. 

The task force is set to carry out checks in public spaces, particularly in urban areas and "potential hotspots", Kurier reported.

The task force also set up a "panel of experts" to suggest how parents can be more responsible, how children's use of social media and cell phones can be improved, and how the asylum system can better accommodate young migrants.

However, Dieter Csefan, head of the task force, told Die Presse that most young offenders were born in Austria.


"There are unaccompanied minors, but the young people we meet in the groups and gangs usually have parents. And the prolific offenders often come from a normal home. They can also be native Austrians. So it's not always just Afghans or Syrians", he said.

He also mentioned that "lowering the age of criminal responsibility is one suggestion" to fight crime. Currently, the age is set at 18, but there are discussions and proposals to lower it to twelve. However, "that alone is not necessarily enough", he added.

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