Large drop in youth crime in county

The future is brighter for hundreds of East Anglian children after new figures last night showed the number having brushes with the law has plummeted in a year.

The future is brighter for hundreds of East Anglian children after new figures last night showed the number having brushes with the law has plummeted in a year.

Across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, 10-17-year-olds getting their first reprimand, warning or conviction fell by almost 1,000 from 3,947 in 2007/8 to 2,977 in 2008/9.

The fall is particularly impressive in Norfolk, where first-time offenders dropped by more than one-third, from 1,623 to 1,084.

Chris Small, deputy head of Norfolk's Youth Offending Team (YOT), said it was “fantastic news”.

He said: “It means more young people will be achieving positive outcomes in their lives. And if there are fewer young people committing crime, there are fewer victims of crime.”

The figures, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families after being collated from the police's national crime database, show a 21.6pc drop in 10-17-year-old first offenders across England.

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In Norfolk, the overall figure is now at its lowest since 2002/3.

The figure of 1,400 first-time youth offenders per 100,000 10-17-year-olds, which is the fairest figure to use as a comparator, puts Norfolk 59th best of 150 areas in England. The previous year it was 2,080 - 95th best in England.

In Suffolk, first-time youth offenders fell from 1,314 to 1,115, the best figure since records began in 2000/1. The number per 100,000 young people dropped from 1,840 to 1,570.

In Cambridgeshire, first time youth offenders dropped from 1,010 to 778, the best since 2003/4. The number per 100,000 young people dropped from 1,770 to 1,360.

Mr Small said: “The reduction is just what we were expecting. The government asked local authorities and other agencies to focus on specific performance targets. One of the ones Norfolk chose to prioritise was a reduction in first-time entrants into the criminal justice system.

“We are now seeing the fruit of that collective effort.”

He said contributory factors included the growing use of restorative justice, where young offenders met with the victims of their offences to work out a way to make amends and to get an understanding of the true impact.

Another factor was the establishment of youth inclusion and support panels, which were set up to counsel and deal with young people who had not offended, but were thought to be at risk of getting embroiled in criminal behaviour, Mr Small said.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker, who yesterday visited a custody suite in London to meet with police and YOT workers to see how they are cracking down on youth crime, said: “I am really pleased to see such a significant drop in the number of young people committing serious offences which warrant action through the criminal justice system. It shows we are on the right track in tackling youth crime.

“These figures show that our efforts to prevent low level offences escalating into more serious crime are working. We know that victims of low level crime are happier with this approach, and it frees up police time to deal with more serious offences.”

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