Youth crime: 'There seems to be a new generation of offenders'
AT a time when there is much talk about sending fewer people to prison and reducing the capacity of jails it is worrying that there appears to be a new generation of offenders where crime seems destined to become an integral part of their lives.
Figures released today by Lothian and Borders Police reveal that 17 youngsters under the age of seven have been caught committing crimes in the past year – not for stealing crayons from a classmate or dropping sweetie papers but for offences ranging from assault to fireraising. Goodness knows what they will be up to by the time they become teenagers.
Of course not all kids are bad and the ones engaging in such activity fortunately represent by far the minority. But research shows that this hardcore element will in all likelihood go on to be responsible for the lion's share of crimes committed by older children.
Due to their age, these "juvenile offenders" cannot yet be held accountable for their actions in the eyes of the law. The best police and social workers can hope for is that by bringing their crimes to the attention of their parents or dragging them before a Children's Reporters is that they will be encouraged to change their ways.
But if the parents of some have been unable to control their behaviour from such an early age it seems a forlorn hope that many will mend their ways.
In an attempt to persuade parents to take their responsibilities seriously, last year police and council chiefs began dishing out mini-ASBOs to children as young as eight. They are being handed out in Edinburgh at the rate of one a week and parents of children who do not ensure that they abide by their terms and conditions face the prospect of being evicted from their homes. Drastic action perhaps, but what choice do the authorities have when they are unable to impose sanctions on the children themselves.
What is certain is that unless teeny crime is tackled effectively the authorities will be sitting on a timebomb and allowing a culture to develop where talk about reducing the number of places in Scottish prisons is surely premature.
On today's evidence, perhaps they should be looking at creating high security nurseries and primary schools instead.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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