The young man, who has kept law enforcement busy since he was 10, was caught red-handed over the weekend after a series of home invasions and narrow escapes in the Rhine-Neckar region of Baden-Württemberg.
A police dog led officers to the boy, who was huddled behind a fuel tank in the boiler room of a residence. He was found carrying watches and jewellery presumably stolen during previous break-ins.
Ute Schneider-Jaksch, head of the youth office in the Bergstrasse county of Hesse, said the one-year programme in Eastern Europe is meant to encourage the boy to give up “old, negative behaviours” through activities like chopping firewood and helping care for animals.
At just 10 years of age, the boy had already committed his first crime. He has since broken into homes and stolen mopeds and other valuables – though his age prevents him from being prosecuted for such misdeeds.
In November, the young man fled from a children's home before being apprehended by police for breaking into a home in Hemsbach. He then faked a suicide attempt, prompting officials to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After being taken to the hospital, the boy escaped out the back door of the ambulance. He later fled from a children's psychological ward.
Schneider-Jaksch called the boy both “intelligent” and “nice” and said he has received intensive individual counselling since May. The youth office's decision to send the boy to Eastern Europe follows months of stalled attempts at rehabilitation, including a plan to enrol him in a sport-training camp that failed after the young man hurt himself in a traffic accident.
The new programme is intended to provide the 13-year-old with a “fresh start,” according to Schneider-Jaksch, who characterised it as an option for children who “can no longer be helped through normal kinds of youth assistance.”
The Bergstrasse youth office has good reason to hope that a year in Eastern Europe will help set the boy on the right path: With his 14th birthday coming up in a few months, the youngster will soon be old enough to face charges for any future crimes.