'Reducing criminalisation of young people' has led child arrests in Norfolk to more than halve in seven years
PUBLISHED: 10:46 19 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:46 19 September 2018
"Steering vulnerable young people away from crime" has led arrests of children in Norfolk to more than halve in the last seven years.
Figures from a Freedom of Information request to Norfolk Constabulary reveal that 1,083 children were arrested by Norfolk Constabulary in 2017.
The number is 57 per cent fewer than the 2,510 arrested in 2010. It is also a 14 per cent decrease on 2016 when 1,261 arrests were made. Suffolk Constabulary figures show that 903 children were arrested in the area in 2017. While this represents a small increase, of 5pc, on 2016, it is 76% fewer than in 2010.
Detective Chief Superintendent Julie Wvendth, from Norfolk Police safeguarding and investigations, said “reducing the criminalisation of young people” and working with early help initiatives like the Youth Offending Team (YOT) has led to the decrease.
“While we take a robust stance on crime and anti-social behaviour, any action taken against perpetrators needs to be appropriate and proportionate.
“We are committed to working with our partners to steer vulnerable young people away from crime and this is reflected in the fall in child arrests.
“Locally we work in partnership with the Youth Offending Team (YOT) to identify the most proportionate outcomes for young people referred to the service.
“Officers and staff play a key role in identifying potential young offenders through early help initiatives which will seek to address behaviour before they move on to commit crime.
“If a minor offence has been committed, where appropriate and with the agreement of the victim, officers can use their discretion to deal via methods such as community resolutions to reduce the number of young people going through the criminal justice system.
“It is more recognised now within policing that the majority of children who offend are themselves often victims and dealing with the cause and not the symptom is the most appropriate approach.”
Comparatively, 79,000 children were arrested last year nationally – 68pc fewer than the 246,000 arrested in 2010.
The Howard League’s report shows that across England and Wales 12,495 arrests of girls were recorded in 2017. Arrests of girls have reduced at a faster rate than arrests of boys since 2010.
Arrests of primary school-age children have also been reduced – there were 616 arrests of 10 and 11-year-olds in 2017, 12pc less than in the previous year.
Detective Chief Superintendent Julie Wvendth, from Norfolk Police safeguarding and investigations, explains why she thinks child arrests have more than halved in the last seven years.
1. Why do you think there has been such a drop in the number of child arrests?
Partners are working together to try and reduce the criminalisation of young people.
Locally we have launched a joint protocol to do just this for young people in care settings.
This encourages those with caring responsibility to consider alternatives to calling the police to report a crime.
Instead they consider how a parent would react were their own child to damage a fixture or fitting in the address for example and deal with it in that way.
2. How have Norfolk Constabulary’s methods changed over the last seven years?
Working with partners has introduced a new way of thinking for all agencies - not just the police.
Officers are placed within Youth Offending Teams to allow discussions to take place on children who are reported for committing offences and the appropriate outcome is agreed collectively.
It is more recognised now within policing that the majority of children who offend are themselves often victims and dealing with the cause and not the symptom is the most appropriate approach.
3. What still needs to be done to further improve the figures?
Responses need to become more mature - we have embarked on a journey but in many ways we remain at the start of this.
Agencies need to identify appropriate methods of sharing information to ensure preventative measures can be put in place to prevent offending in the first place.
The focus needs to be on early intervention and problem solving so the right approach is put in place for children who need help and support.
Locally the Early Help Hubs are a part of this journey, as is the MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) and the work being done to look at the criminal exploitation of children.
4. How is restorative justice impacting the figures?
Restorative justice offers a chance to young people but the issue is that it needs to be supported by some form of intervention for the young person to ensure the issues causing them to offend are addressed and dealt with - otherwise you are only putting off the inevitable.
5. How important is it to change the behaviour of criminals from a young age is, and why?
We need to support young people and ensure they have the help they require to develop.
This requires a partnership approach and the sharing of information for those young people who present risk factors so criminal behaviour can be prevented and avoided.
Locally we have good engagement with young people through our embedded officers in the Youth Offending Team and those officers and staff also embedded in several of our schools across the county.