Police winning war on teeny crime

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POLICE today claimed they are winning the war on teeny crime after the latest figures revealed a massive drop in the number of children arrested in the Lothians.

• The number of child arrests in the Lothians is falling

But despite a 25 per cent fall in the last year, at least six primary school children are still charged by police with committing a crime every week.

The latest figures, released to the Evening News under Freedom of Information laws, showed that 312 youngsters aged between six and ten were arrested in the force area.

Seven children aged just seven years old were referred to the Children's Reporter because their offending was deemed serious enough.

Another 3,947 youngsters aged between 11 and 15 – or more than ten every day – were also charged by police between last April and March.

The offences committed by these under-16s included robbery, assault, housebreaking, joyriding, vandalism and possession of offensive weapons.

Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown said the figures showed a "worrying trend of a crime culture" amongst youngsters and called for action to be taken.

But this year's figures revealed a massive drop against the previous year when 420 children aged six to ten and 5,000 aged 11 to 15 were charged.

Police chiefs said the drop was linked to the policy of early intervention aimed at tackling youngsters' problems before they fall into a pattern of re-offending.

Police, social workers, education staff and officials from the council's youth offending and antisocial behaviour units now meet on a weekly basis as part of the 'Getting It Right For Every Child' programme. The scheme assesses the needs of every child charged in Edinburgh during the previous seven days.

However, a hardcore group of young criminals are behind a massive number of recorded offences. Figures released earlier this year showed that 1,200 crimes were committed by just ten teenagers in the Capital in 12 months.

Mr Brown said: "With more than 80 crimes a week committed by people under the age of 16, it shows how action is needed to tackle this problem. The public deserve better protection from the minority of local youngsters that cause so much trouble and mayhem across the region.

"We must do all that we can in order to prevent this culture of youth crime turning into a life of crime."

Figures from the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration showed that they dealt with offending referrals for ten nine-year-olds, and another 21 ten-year-olds.

Inspector Jim Royan, from the force's safer communities department, said the 'Getting It Right For Every Child' scheme, set up last year, was aimed at reducing the number of referrals, as well as overall offending.

He said: "Although it can be difficult to say, we believe the drop in offending by under-16s in the last year is due to us intervening at an earlier stage to tackle offending behaviour and divert youngsters away from a life of crime.

"By having the different agencies round a table every week, we can look at each child and quickly assess who is best suited to deal with the problem, whether it be police, health, social workers or the Children's Reporter.

"With the police, we have community agreements and Acceptable Behaviour Contractors where the child agrees to certain behaviour, we have one-to-one warnings where we visit the child at home and restorative justice programmes where they meet their victim."

Inspector Royan said that studies had shown that 75 per cent of youngsters who go through the restorative justice work did not re-offend within 12 months.

Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, city leader for children and families, said: "The council is committed to offering the right service at the right time to every child and their family.

"We are dedicated to continuing our work with partners in the fight to reduce the amount of youth offending in Edinburgh."