CHILDREN as young as six have been arrested in the capital in the last year – but police insist they are winning the war on youth crime.
There has been a 25 per cent fall in the number of under-16s being arrested in the last year, but there are still at least six primary school children charged every week
And 312 youngsters aged between six and ten were arrested by Lothian and Borders Police.
There were seven children aged just seven referred to the children’s reporter and a total of 3947 youngsters aged between 11 and 15 charged by police between April 2008 and March this year.
Crimes committed by these under-16s included robbery, assault, housebreaking, joyriding, vandalism and possession of offensive weapons.
Although there has been a decline in numbers, it is still causing concern for politicians, with Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown saying the figures showed a “worrying trend of a crime culture”.
The numbers – obtained under the freedom of information act – show there has been a massive drop from the previous year when 420 children aged six to ten and 5,000 aged 11 to 15 were charged.
Statistics released earlier this year suggested that a lot of youth crime is being committed by a few individuals.
They showed that 1,200 crimes were committed by just ten teenagers in Edinburgh in 12 months.
Mr Brown MSP 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.”
Getting it Right for Every Child
The police said that the massive drop was due to a programme of early intervention aimed at tackling the youngster’s problems before they have the chance to re-offend.
Police, social workers, education staff and officials from the council’s youth offending units now meet on a weekly basis as part of the ‘Getting it Right for Every Child scheme.
The programme assesses the needs of every child charged in Edinburgh during the previous seven days.
Inspector Jim Royan, from Lothian and Border Police safer communities department, 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 around a table every week, we can look at every child and quickly asses who is best suited to deal with the problem, whether it be police, health, social workers or Children’s Reporter.
“With the police, we have community agreements and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts 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.”
The Inspector said that studies have shown 75 per cent of youngsters who go through restorative justice work did not re-offend within 12 months.
Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, city leader of 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.”
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