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Teenage pickpockets cause problems for Vienna courts

The problem of teenagers not revealing their true ages and identities after having been caught pock-pocketing has emerged in a Vienna court for the second time in a matter of weeks.

A teenage girl will have to appear in court to face pick-pocketing charges after a dental examination debunked her claim that she was under 14-years-old. If the examination had concluded that the girl could be under 14 then she would have avoided prosecution as she would be declared a minor.

The case follows an incident last week whereby a supposedly older male, thought to be part of the same gang as the girl, was acquitted for pick-pocketing after the court doubted whether he was older than fourteen. He then disappeared into hiding after he was released from custody.

Police believe many pickpockets come from Bosnia, where they receive training in how to rob people and beg for money. They can make about 300 Euros a day although the majority of this goes into the hands of traffickers who control them.

Traffickers normally choose young looking teenagers who are also taught to conceal their true age and country of origin, with the hope that this will prevent prosecution and also protect the people they work for.

Some social youth workers have complained that not enough is being done to prevent young people from getting involved in pickpocketing and robberies run by organised crime networks.

Director of Vienna based youth service centre Drehscheibe, Norbert Ceipek, has said that the young people need to be seen as both perpetrators and victims. He has called for a round table discussion between Bosnian and Viennese authorities and social services to help find a solution to the problem.

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