A HARDCORE group of ten child criminals – aged as young as 11 – may be “beyond help”, police today admitted, as it was revealed they are behind a staggering 800 offences across the Capital.
The tearaways make up a list of the worst young offenders in Edinburgh, with three notching up 100 or more charges, including housebreaking, joyriding and robbery.
One 15-year-old boy from the east of the city has committed 117 offences in the last two years to become the most prolific under-16 criminal, while an 11-year-old boy from north Edinburgh is also among the ten worst, with a criminal record which includes sexual assault, assault and robbery, and car theft.
The youngsters were today branded “out of control” amid calls for tougher action to stop them from “wreaking havoc”.
Police chiefs said the force worked with social workers and other agencies on early intervention in a bid to stop youngsters becoming serial offenders.
As well as referring offenders to the Children’s Reporter, which has the power to put them in secure accommodation, diversionary activities aim to keep children out of trouble, while restorative justice programmes allow perpetrators to meet victims and learn about the impact of their behaviour.
But one officer, who has dealt with youth crime issues, admitted that the force is often simply “trying to limit the damage”.
He said: “It’s terrible to say but some of them may be beyond help, even when they are 14 or 15. For many officers, the same names come up time and again from a young age.
“There’s only a certain number of secure accommodation places, and it’s usually the case that you arrest them and they are straight back out on the streets.
“These kids know that the law basically can’t do much until they reach the adult courts. Until that time you’re trying to limit the damage. Some might turn it around but others are already on their way to a life of crime.
“These are often damaged kids from difficult backgrounds without real support from family or others to help change their ways.
“What we try to do is get involved as soon as they come into the system to intervene early before it gets to that hopeless stage.”
The figures, released under freedom of information laws, did show that the volume of crimes committed by children aged 17 and under fell in 2011 against the previous year, from 10,840 down to 9912.
But the volume of crimes still amounted to 27 offences every day.
Lewis Macdonald, Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “Clearly in these cases of serial offending we have young people who are out of control. They have neither self-control or parents or guardians in their lives who are able or willing to exert control over them.
“When you have an 11-year-old committing more than 50 offences then something has gone seriously wrong even at that early stage in their life.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “The only good thing about these individuals is time is still on their side.
“We need stern interventions, tough action from the courts and measures that will let these youngsters know that a life of crime is not to be desired.”
Three of the six youngsters who accumulated the most charges, including the 15-year-old with 117 offences, are from east Edinburgh, where a number of high-profile incidents have shed light on youth crime.
In March last year, 12-year-old schoolgirl Alisha Khan was attacked by a gang of girls in Piershill, where antisocial behaviour involving marauding youngsters saw new CCTV cameras installed.
Takeaway driver Simon San was killed outside his family’s Lochend shop in August 2010 after being attacked by teenagers.
Councillor Mike Bridgman, who represents Portobello/Craigmillar, said: “There are young people involved in a large amount of offending. I was made aware of one case of a boy who was involved in dozens of offences for joyriding trail bikes in streets and parks in Craigmillar, though I think he has since turned 16.
“I’m chair of the community safety sub-group for the area and we’ve been trying to help with diversionary activities. We provide holiday funding for community centres so they can put on more activities during the school summer holidays. Since that funding was introduced in 2008, we’ve seen a 38 per cent drop in youth crime over the school summer holidays.
“It’s more difficult with those who are responsible for so many crimes. They may get a thrill from their behaviour and are aware they’re not obeying the rules of society. We’re trying to prevent other kids from going down that road.”
Cllr Bridgman said that the Jack Kane Centre put on activities for youngsters, while a portable football pitch run by the Kids in the Street group was primarily based in Craigmillar.
Councillor Stefan Tymkewycz, who represents the Craigentinny/Duddingston ward, said: “There has been one or two youths in the area who have committed more than their fair share of crimes. I spoke to the local inspector recently and he informed me that one of these youths who had been causing problems in the Northfield/Piershill area had just been arrested again.
“The police and other agencies have been working to target bored teenagers who are responsible for offences. We have the Buzz bus which helps takes kids off the streets and gives them something to do.
“Obviously kids who are responsible for large numbers of crimes are harder to reach, but not impossible if we put in the time and investment.”
Early intervention meetings take place every week between police, NHS Lothian, youth offender workers and the city council’s education, children and families, and services for communities staff.
The group discusses recent cases and reviews the child’s police, social work and education records before deciding which agency they should be referred to.
Some may receive a warning letter home, others are dealt with through diversionary schemes, while the more serious are given to the Children’s Reporter.
Youngsters appearing before a Children’s Panel over an offence can be hit with measures including a supervision order to monitor their behaviour, and be placed in secure accommodation or youth detention.
Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s children and families leader, said: “Early intervention is the key to preventing youth offending and we are dedicated, along with our partner organisations, to ensuring that young people and their families receive support at the earliest opportunity.
“As a result of these efforts, incidents of youth offending in Edinburgh have dropped substantially and we will continue to work towards further reducing this number.”
A police spokesman said: “Throughout Edinburgh we have dedicated school link officers, who engage closely with pupils, teachers and parents on a daily basis.
“This has proven extremely successful in reducing reports of youth crime, but also provides police with early intervention opportunities if and when we are made aware of children becoming involved in criminal activity.
“Where serious crimes have been committed, the police will refer the case to the Children’s Reporter and the Crown for their disposal, where a custodial sentence may be an option.”
TEN OF THE WORST
(offences committed in last two years)
83x vandalism, 4x assault, 2x racial conduct, 13x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 7x culpable and reckless conduct, 3x theft, 1x attempted housebreaking, 1x possession of offensive weapon, 1x railway trespass, 1x police obstruction.
26x vandalism, 15x assault, 10x police assault, 2x racial conduct, 12x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 19x culpable/reckless conduct, 2x theft of motor vehicle, 7x theft, 4x housebreaking, 1x robbery, 1x possession of offensive weapon, 1x in building with intent to steal, 2x resist arrest, 3x police obstruction, 1x attempted theft, 1x attempt rescue, 1x Emergency Workers Act offence
10x Road Traffic Act Offences, 12x vandalism, 2x malicious damage, 3x assault, 2x assault and robbery, 1x assault and attempted robbery, 7x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 1x culpable/reckless conduct, 3x attempted theft (motor vehicle), 8x theft of motor vehicle, 18x theft, 3x housebreaking, 2x attempted housebreaking, 4x possession of offensive weapon, 2x in building with intent to steal, 1x Misuse of Drugs Act offence, 1x attempted theft from open locked place, 2x theft from open locked place, 2x attempted theft, 10x theft from open locked place (motor vehicle), 2x open locked place with intent to steal, 2x bike theft, 1x attempted theft from open locked (motor vehicle)
22x vandalism, 32x assault, 5x police assault, 3x racial conduct, 13x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 1x culpable/reckless conduct, 1x theft motor vehicle, 6x theft, 3x housebreaking, 1x housebreaking, 2x robbery, 1x possession of a knife, 1x attempted theft, 1x attempting to pervert course of justice, 1x assault and attempted robbery, 4x police obstruction, 1x resisting arrest
65x vandalism, 3x malicious
damage, 1x racial conduct, 1x breach of the peace, 7x culpable/reckless conduct, 2x theft, 1x railway
5x Road Traffic Act offences, 1x vandalism, 1x malicious damage, 7x assault, 1x assault and robbery, 2x breach of the peace, 2x theft of motor vehicle, 1x shoplifting, 32x theft, 6x housebreaking, 2x attempted housebreaking, 2x in building with intent to steal, 2x Misuse of Drugs Act offences, 3x theft open locked place (motor vehicle), 1x threats
59x vandalism, 2x malicious damage, 1x assault, 1x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 1x culpable/reckless conduct, 1x public indecency
7x Road Traffic Act offences, 14x vandalism, 8x assault, 1x police assault, 1x assault and robbery, 2x racial conduct, 2x breach of the peace, 2x culpable/reckless
conduct, 2x attempted theft of motor vehicle, 2x theft of motor vehicle, 10x theft, 3x housebreaking, 1x reset, 1x possession of offensive weapon, 2x in building with intent to steal, 2x threats, 1x resisting arrest, 1x theft from open locked place, 2x theft from open locked (motor vehicle)
13x Road Traffic Act offences, 12x vandalism, 3x assault, 2x racial conduct, 2x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 5x culpable/reckless conduct, 2x attempted theft of motor vehicle, 7x theft of motor vehicle, 3x theft, 2x housebreaking, 1x possession of offensive weapon, 2x in building with intent to steal,
1x Explosives Act (fireworks), 1x theft from open locked place
(motor vehicle), 1x mobbing and rioting
13x vandalism, 6x assault, 1x
assault and robbery, 3x breach of the peace, 1x fireraising, 3x culpable/reckless conduct, 2x theft of motor vehicle, 2x shoplifting, 11x theft, 3x housebreaking, 1x sexual assault, 3x assault and attempt robbery, 1x assault with intent to rob, 1x theft from open locked place (motor vehicle), 1x mobbing and rioting