No. VII (1976)

Delinquency in the Warsaw Area. Ecological Analysis

Anna Kossowska
Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Published 1976-12-01


  • social maladjustment,
  • crime,
  • Warsaw,
  • social pathology,
  • social classes

How to Cite

Kossowska, A. (1976). Delinquency in the Warsaw Area. Ecological Analysis. Archives of Criminology, (VII), 141–263.


  1. This work is devoted to an analysis of the territorial differentiation

of crime and delinquency in Warsaw and the establishment of the

factors, conditioning it from the socio-economic and demographic point

of view.

The various Polish studies on the problem of delinquency in a big city

milieu (differing substantially from one another, regarding the range of the phenomenon studied as well as the research methods used) point to the differentiation of the terrain of the big cities, subjected to studies, as to the degree of intensification of delinquency.

One often comes across opinions that Warsaw, because of its war and post-war history, is not a typical city, where there could exist conditions for an unhampered influence of general ecological laws.

During the Second World War Warsaw was utterly destroyed and efforts were made, when the city was being rebuilt, so that the various regions of the city would be uniform from the social point of view. The general balance of losses amounted in 1945 to approximately 70% of the city's buildings, and almost 100% of the most valuable complexes of buildings of the mid-town had been destroyed. Before the outbreak of the war in 1939 Warsaw had 1,282,000 inhabitants and when the city was liberated in 1945 only 162,000 people inhabited the capital, of whom 22,000 lives on the left bank of the river (mainly in the suburbs); in 1975 Warsaw had 1,300,000 inhabitants. According to estimates 700,000 Warsaw residents were killed and the remaining inhabitants were after the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising tin 1944 driven out of the city. Due to this deportation the Varsovians scattered all over the country and only part of them returned in 1944 to Warsaw. It is estimated that the main wave of return to Warsaw of its prewar inhabitants took place up to the year 1950, when the number of prewar Varsovians in Warsaw amounted to 500,000 (out of a total of 750,000). Thus, the remaining part of the residents of Poland's capital was a population either made up of migrants  or due to the natural increase in population, or because new territories

 were incorporated into Warsaw. A stop was put to the initial spontaneous migration movement of the population from other regions to Warsaw in 1954 through the introduction of registration restrictions; this was caused by the fact that the building of new houses could not cope with the rate of growth of the population. The introduction of restrictions, checking the migration movement was not combined with putting the brake to the increase in employment, which brought in its wake an enormous, steady growth of the number of people daily commuting to work in Warsaw, sometimes from quite distant regions.


Summing up, one could say that contemporary Warsaw is a city, which after almost complete destruction during the war has at a rapid rate been rebuilt, remodelled and markedly expanded as compared with its prewar shape. In principle, with the exception of relatively small parts of the city, present-day Warsaw cannot be compared with prewar Warsaw. It is being emphasized in studies, that a typical feature of postwar Warsaw is the lack of territorial segregation of the newcomers among the population, something which could be noticed in the city before the Second World War and is true today also of cities in Western Europe, America or other continents. In this city there are now no districts of traditional Varsovians and districts of the new-comers, especially from the countryside.

The social changes in postwar Warsaw find their expression in the levelling of class and economic divisions between the population in the various residential areas. Social differences between the various districts also disappear at a rapid rate.

It was the aim of the new social policy to shuffle the inhabitants from the social point of view, but partial studies conducted and observations revealed not only remnants of prewar aspects but also processes of some sort of selection, at the root of which lie once again economic reasons, as well as more complex psychological reasons.

One of the factors differentiating the city as a whole, is the phenomenon of delinquency. This is being revealed by partial studies, of the delinquency in Warsaw, conducted during the course of the past 20 years, and concerning the various groups of offenders (mainly juvenile delinquents).

  1. The studies, to which this work is devoted, concentrate on the intensity of delinquency in the various regions of Warsaw. We have in mind here the differentiation of the city from the point of view of the intensity of various kinds of offences as well as the intensity of the number of delinquents inhabiting the various districts.

Discussing the differentiation existing in the city in regard to delinquency we shall base ourselves on the administrative division of the city into districts, taking into account smaller regions, too i.e. what is called town planners’ regions.

The table illustrates some of the characteristic features of these districts.

These districts differ substantially from the point of view of socioeconomic features. And thus Praga North (VI) and Wola (IV) are the districts, with the biggest concentration of industry while the largest number of people employed in industry live in Praga North and Praga South (VII). The population of the various districts also differs in regard to their educational level: the highest percentage of people with at least secondary school education lives in Mid-town (district I), that with the lowest educational level in Praga North (VI). To this short characteristic should still be added that both Praga districts, situated on the right bank of the Vistula River were least destroyed during the war and there are more prewar Varsovians living there than in other districts. Especially in Praga North (VI) can be found regions which remained unchanged almost till now and which before the war were inhabited by the “lumpenproletariat” and a relatively large percentage of delinquent elements.

The second division of the city used here was that into 79 town planners’ regions. This division was arranged for purposes of town planning and made it possible to set apart areas which were homogeneous from the urban and economic point of view. In our analysis this made it possible for us to set apart within each district some smaller regions, 

marked by a special intensification of delinquency.


  1. This study is based on statistical material of a dual type. We deal here with the official police statistics (containing data on the cleared up offences) for the various years between 1953—1973 (and in some cases also data from court records) as well as data especially collected by the Department of Criminology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, concerning almost all the offences reported to the police or which were revealed during investigations in 1968. This research was initiated in 1971, but material concerning the year 1969 could not be taken into consideration because of the amnesty nor that of 1970, which was the first year when the new penal code had become binding. During the course of the research- data were registered on special questionnaires, taken from the police investigation records, regarding offences committed in the area of Warsaw reported to the police in 1968 as well as the addresses of people, suspected of having committed them. When gathering these data certain types of offences of a specific nature were not taken into consideration, such as traffic, or fiscal offences or malfeasances in office. The analysis finally covered 82.4% of all the offences reported to the police in Warsaw in 1968, i.e. a total of 20,960 offences. The number of suspected individuals amounted to 12,257.

Before the presentation of the results of the studies it should be recalled that, as is generally known, statistical data do not reflect the real extent of delinquency, not all the information about some the committed offences as being reported to the police and the officials entitled to prosecute. The dark number of offences that remain unrevealed, is everywhere a serious problem when examining the dimensions of delinquency.

  1. Presenting data regarding delinquency in Warsaw we want to start with a short comparison between delinquency in Warsaw and that of other cities in Poland. 

The intensity of offences committed in the area of Warsaw has markedly surpassed the average figure for delinquency in the whole of Poland. During the postwar period the gap between the figure for Warsaw and that of the whole of Poland was greater than before. While in 1938 there were 219.6 registered offences per 10,000 inhabitants of Warsaw (168.7 for the whole country), in the years 1965—1967 this coefficient amounted to 247.7 (142.3 for the whole country). The greater difference between the intensity of delinquency in Warsaw and the entire country can be explained mainly as being due to the large migration, following the almost complete destruction of Warsaw during the war. But for a number of years already, there is no longer a noticeable tendency for an increase in the difference of the dimensions of delinquency between Warsaw and the rest of the country.

Comparing with other cities in Poland the number of reported offences in Warsaw is rather high, though it is by no means the highest (Warsaw is the largest city in Poland, the only one that has over one million inhabitants). The delinquency rates (i.e. the number of offences in relation to that of the inhabitants) as well as its structure are in Warsaw

similar to an entire group of cities, with over 200,000 inhabitants. It should be emphasized that there are only slight differences between big and small towns as regards the intensity of delinquency, though there can be noticed a distinct difference in the structure of delinquency. While Warsaw — just as the remaining cities in Poland — is marked by a considerable number of offences against property, offences against the person are distinctly much more frequent in small towns.

The above-mentioned facts are related to offences registered in police records. The situation is different if one takes into account the number of people convicted for offences committed in the area of Warsaw. But in this case one should separately discuss convictions of people above 17 and of juveniles (between 10 .and 16, i.e. who are under age).

Criminality of persons above the age of 17, who constitute approximately 82% of the total of persons convicted for offences, is relatively low as compared with other towns. Thus in the years 1971—1973 there 72.8 of the convicted offenders per every ten thousand of inhabit-years were ants above 17, while this coefficient for all the cities and towns in Poland amounted to 85.1. However, juvenile delinquency adopts in Warsaw especially large dimensions. In the years 1971—1973 the coefficient of convictions of juvenile delinquents amounted in Warsaw to 128.6 per 10,000 inhabitants between 10 and 16 years, while the average every coefficient of all the towns amounted to 89.5.

The general picture of delinquency in Warsaw as compared with other towns in Poland is as follows: a large (though not the largest) number of offences committed, a very large number of convictions of juveniles and a small number of convictions of adults. Striking in this picture are the remarkable differences between indices related to reported offences on the one hand and indices of convictions of adults on the other hand, which is not noticed to such an extent in other cities and towns. Not taking into account here the problem of the dark number of unrevealed offences, one has to reckon with the probability of a larger average number of offences committed on an average by the individual perpetrator from city areas than is the case with those from other areas, due to the anonymity in a city crowd.

  1. We start our analysis of the differences regarding the dimensions of

delinquency in the Warsaw area with a presentation of the intensity of this phenomenon in all seven administrative districts of the city, taking into account the place where the offence was committed.

Use was made of police records from the years 1965, 1968 and 1971. These data reveal that only two districts differed as to the intensity of delinquency, while delinquency in the remaining districts was on an even level. Thus, the highest coefficients of registered offences per 10,000 inhabitants were found in the Mid-town district (the average coefficient of the three above-mentioned years was 377.3) and the Praga North district (average coefficient 325.4). However, in the remaining five districts the average coefficients of delinquency remained in a relatively narrow range from 159.0 to 218.4.

Also from the point of view of the structure of the offences committed, only the two above-mentioned districts Mid-town and Praga North were marked by specific features. The Mid-town district is characterized by a particularly high percentage of offences against individual property and by petty offences against the person, as a rule committed under the influence of alcohol. Praga North distinguishes itself by the especially great extent of offences against the socialized property and by the more serious offences against the person.

All Warsaw districts are large administrative units, each one of which is inhabited by approximately 200,000 people and they perform simultaneously various 'socio-economic functions; nevertheless Praga North and Mid-town districts reveal in this respect quite separate features, which is undoubtedly connected with the larger dimensions of delinquency. The Mid-town district situated in the centre of the city, is the only one that has no suburban areas, occupies the smallest area and has decidedly the greatest density of population. From the functional point of view it is the commercial, entertainment and transportation centre of Warsaw. In this area are the largest department stores, cinemas and other entertainment places, there also cross the urban and suburban transportation and traffic routes. The Praga North district on the other hand distinguishes itself from other districts neither by the size of its territory nor the density of population, it also has suburban areas. But part of it performs nevertheless the role of a commercial and entertainment as well as transportation centre for that part of the city, which is situated on the opposite bank of the river than the Mid-town district.

In addition to this the Praga North district was one of the two districts of Warsaw that were least destroyed during the last war and retained part of the old buildings of a low standard, inhabited by the former residents, mainly by workers. Not without significance, too, is the fact that the Praga North district includes one of the most industrialized territories of Warsaw.

The statements made above are related to large territorial units, namely the administrative districts of the city. Studied, too, were differentiations in the intensity of offences committed within each district, on the basis, as mentioned before, of the division of the city into town planned regions. It turned out, that the coefficients of delinquency in the various regions as well as the absolute figures of offences reported, make one reach unanimous conclusions. The largest extent of reported delinquency was found in two types of regions: in the central regions of the entire city or of particular districts as well as in regions with a concentrated industry. However, the smallest dimensions of this phenomenon are noted in suburban regions, which perform above all the functions of residential and recreational areas.

  1. Mention was made above of the differences in intensity of delinquency in Warsaw as the place where the offences were committed.. Now we wish to pass over to a discussion of the place of residence of people suspected of having committed offences. Analyzing data on the intensity of delinquency in relation to place of residence (the number of the perpetrators of offences in relation to the number of inhabitants of a given area, in the respective age groups), for the various districts, regarding juvenile delinquents (from 10 to 16 years), young adults (17—20) and adults (21 and above), it was found that the largest number of offenders live in Praga North. The sequence of other districts arranged according to the intensity of delinquency depends on the given age group. In the case of juveniles, Zoliborz takes second place and the Mid-town third. Note, that as far as young adults and adults are concerned the Mid-town has the smallest number of them living there.

An illustration of these statements are the coefficients of suspected inhabitants of a given district, in the given age groups as compared with the total population of that age. Thus, the coefficients pointing to the number of juvenile, young adult and adult delinquents domiciled in the given area, are the highest for Praga North, amounting in this district, respectively to: 20.1, 25.1 and 9.1 (per 1,000 inhabitants of the given age groups). In the Mid-town district are much lower coefficients than those mentioned before: 11.3 for young adults and 4.8 for adults. Thus we see, that the Mid-town, which as far as the place where the offence was committed, belonged, together with Praga North, to the districts where the number of offences committed was highest. Nevertheless the Mid-town has the lowest number of young adult and adult delinquents living there. Thus the number of juvenile delinquents living there is rather high in the Mid-town district, but this is understandable, if one takes into account the fact that juvenile delinquents as a rule commit offences in the direct neighbourhood of their place of residence. On the other hand, it should be stressed that in Praga North, which distinguishes itself also by a high number of offences committed and outdistances even more the remaining districts as regards the number of offenders who have their domicile in this district.

The difference found in the number of offenders with domicile in the various districts as compared with the differentiation of these districts regarding the offences committed there can also be noticed when one takes into account the structure of delinquency. For the sake of simplicity in this analysis offences have been divided into five categories: against the person, against the authorities and public offices, against

the property, robberies and “others”. When we compare the coefficients regarding the number of offenders with domicile in a given district the number of offenders living there per the total number of inhabitants of the district in the age group 10 years and more (ratio 1:1,000), it has been revealed that most persons suspected of having committed robbery and offences against property can be found in Praga North. In the case of those who committed offences against the person first place is taken by Żoliborz.

An analysis of the structure of delinquency of persons in various age groups indicates that a larger percentage of juveniles suspected of having committed offences against the person are living in the Mid-town than in other districts, and that a high percentage of persons suspected of having committed offences against property among young adults and adults live in Praga North. Striking in all the age groups is the particularly high percentage of persons suspected of offences against property among those living outside Warsaw.

  1. The next problem that has to be dealt with in the ecological analysis of delinquency is that of the “mobility” of the offenders living in the various districts of Warsaw. In other words, to what extent the offenders living in a given district commit offences in this district and to what in other districts.

It is known that juveniles as a rule commit offences in the direct neighbourhood of their domicile, and that is why in their case one may not expect special “spatial mobility”. Despite this, though 75—90% of the juvenile delinquents living in each district commit offences there (excluding the Mid-town where this percentage is higher), nevertheless it can be clearly noticed that juveniles, committing offences not in their own district do that most frequently in the Mid-town district. This is true especially of that part of Warsaw situated on the left bank of the Vistula; in both districts Praga North and Praga South on the other bank of the river a slightly larger percentage of “wandering” juveniles commit offences in the district on the same side of the river than in  Mid-town. But 'the differences in this case are minimal and do not blur the general picture of the Mid-town as a district with the largest centration of delinquency committed there by juveniles inhabiting other districts. This is true especially if one takes into account juveniles from outside of Warsaw, of whom as many as 27.5% commit offences in Mid-town.

As to young adults, the same conclusions may be drawn, regarding their “delinquent mobility” as in regard to juveniles, but with two exceptions. First, young adults more frequently than juveniles commit offences outside the district where they live, secondly, almost the same percentage of young adults living outside Warsaw commit offences in Praga North (22%) as in the Mid-town (21.3%). In other districts these percentages are markedly lower.

As far as delinquency of adults is concerned, the Mid-town is marked by the greatest concentration of offences committed outside the place of residence, while Praga North is the site where most frequently offences are committed by adults, living outside Warsaw. It seems that the latter phenomenon is connected with the fact that in this district there are two large railway stations.

The concentrating role of the Mid-town and to a lesser extent of Praga North — can also be noticed if one takes into account the various types of offences. Those living in various districts who commit offences against the person, against authorities and public offices, as well as offences against property, if they commit these offences outside the district of their domicile, do that most frequently in the Mid-town (in the case of offences against property this concerns left-bank part of Warsaw). Note, that the perpetrators of robbery do it mainly in the district where they live and in the case of this category of offenders no concentrating role of the Mid-town is being observed.

Note the interesting ecological phenomenon that the Vistula River constitutes some sort of barrier, cutting through the channel of “delinquency mobility”. While offenders living in the five districts of Warsaw, situated on the left bank of the river most frequently committed offences in the Mid-town (in cases when such offences were committed outside the district of their domicile), those who lived in the two districts on the right bank more often committed offences in the neighbouring district, situated on the same bank of the river and not in the Mid-town.

The data presented above on the place of residence of certain categories

of offenders in the various districts and their “mobility” in connection with the offences committed by them, lead to the unequivocal conclusion, that the differentiation of Warsaw districts from the point of view discussed here makes it possible to divide them into two groups. The first group are the Mid-town and Praga North, each one of which has its clearly defined specific features, while the second group is made up of the remaining districts, which as a rule are similar regarding delinquency.

  1. The further part of this work discusses the connections between the demographic and socio-economic character of 'the various districts and the extent of delinquency on their territory approached from the point of view of the site where the offences were committed as well as the domicile of the perpetrators studied with the use of factor analysis. Taken into account in this analysis were 7 variables related to delinquency and 19 variables defining the above-mentioned characteristic features of the district.

As a result of the analysis two independent factors were set apart. The first of them defines the district in the following way: a large number of adults living in this district who are suspected of having committed offences, the extent of alcoholism among the residents, a population earning their living in industry, a large percentage of the population with a low educational level, higher infant mortality than somewhere else, the concentration of industry in this district and a lower housing standard than elsewhere.

The second factor defines the district in the following way: a high concentration of delinquency in general, juvenile delinquency and that of adults (here it is a question of the site where the offences were committed and not of the domicile of the offenders), a large number of juveniles living there, suspected of having committed offences, high sales figures of alcohol, concentration of trade, better access to social services rendered to the population. 

Thus we see that factor I defines city regions, characterized by remnants of the past social and urban neglect. It is striking that precisely those regions where there is a concentration of the features making up an undoubtedly negative milieu (alcoholism, low housing standard, higher infant mortality than elsewhere) are simultaneously inhabited by a majority of young adults and adult offenders. However, at the same time those regions in which juveniles are residing and offences are being committed (by adults and juveniles) are of a different character. 

These latter regions are defined by factor II, regarding the Mid-town  district with its features of commercial and entertainment centre. To the syndrome of variables, making up this factor, do not belong any traits which could characterize unfavourable environmental conditions (as an urban milieu). Nevertheless, precisely with this factor in connected the concentration of delinquency committed by adults and juveniles as well as the concentration of juvenile delinquents’ domicile.

Among those Warsaw districts which are being defined by factor I, first comes Praga North and the last place is occupied by the Mid-town district. The order in which districts are arranged as defined by factor II is: first comes the Mid-town and then Praga North. Thus one notes a certain duality as regards Praga North, which being a commercial and entertainment centre of 'that part of the city, situated on the rigiht bank of the river, is characterized by the appearance, side by side, of terrains with modern big city buildings and regions with a very low standard of housing, and frequently one and the other are in closest neighbourhood. Connected with this is also a substantial differentiation as regards the population from the point of view of socio-demographic features. Undoubtedly it is precisely the dual nature of this district which explains the high place occupied by it among districts which come under the above-mentioned factors.

Note also the fact that — in contradistinction to the case of adults — both aspects of juvenile delinquency, i.e. the domicile of the juveniles as well as the site where they commit the offences, are connected with the same “mid-town” factor.

While the fact that the majority of offences are being committed in mid-town regions which are the commercial and entertainment centres of the city, seems understandable, due to the greater influx of people, the anonymity of the human crowd, etc., it may be surprising, that it is the domicile of the majority of the juvenile delinquents and not the regions marked by the remnants of social and urban backwardness, as is the case with adults offenders. But it should be borne in mind, that we are realing here with all the reported juvenile delinquents, irrespective of the degree of their demoralization. One may assume, that juveniles with a high degree of demoralization live in the same regions as the adult delinquents. In turn juveniles who are less demoralized have undoubtedly, in case their domicile is close to the commercial and entertainment centres, more opportunities to avoid the control of the adults, which is also connected with more convenient conditions for the committment of petty offences against property, typical of juvenile delinquents.


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