Young victims of crime

Teenagers are much maligned as the perpetrators rather than the victims of crime. But they are among the most vulnerable members of society with young people the most likely to suffer at the hands of offenders.

Teenagers are much maligned as the perpetrators rather than the victims of crime. But they are among the most vulnerable members of society with young people the most likely to suffer at the hands of offenders. Crime correspondent BEN KENDALL reports following a wave of vicious attacks on Norfolk streets.

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At 6.30pm on a weekday evening an 11-year-old was left shaken after being grabbed and searched by two older teenagers as he walked along a quiet track in Reepham. His attackers took the small change from his pockets.

Later that week a group of three friends in their late teens were attacked by between eight and 10 men. One victim was punched and kicked to the ground before having his mobile phone, wallet and snooker cue stolen.

The incident on Friday did not take place in a no-go-zone but in the residential Richmond Road, Costessey, just after 10pm - a time and location which would not normally cause parents undue concern.

Meanwhile police are hunting a gang of about 10 youths who assaulted three young men and stole their bags in Norwich's Eaton Park just after 8pm on Thursday.

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Individually, each incident is worrying but viewed as a cross-section of violence from a period of just one week, a more disturbing pattern emerges - one of low-level offending with far-reaching consequences. Although only relatively low-value items were taken and minor injuries suffered on each occasion, the victims' feelings of fear are more serious.

Against such a backdrop it becomes difficult for parents to strike a balance between being over-protective of their teenagers and allowing them to take unnecessary risks.

Norfolk police insist violent crime, particularly street robberies, have been driven down in recent years - the figures have almost halved in the last three years.

But a spokesman acknowledged there has been a rise in recent weeks.

Det Insp Nick Day said: “A large amount of analytical work is being carried out by our intelligence unit to identify any patterns or links between incidents and our CID officers and uniform patrol officers are investigating these incidents.

“A number of inquiries are under way including forensics, witness interviews, examination of CCTV footage and public information appeals. We can reassure the public that the chances of being a victim of robbery in Norwich are still very low and we are working proactively to clamp down on this current spate.”

It is difficult to explain such an increase but long dark nights inevitably play their part in providing the perfect opportunity to carry out crime undetected and the growing habit of carrying expensive phones and other electrical goods is likely to be a factor.

Research suggests that 35pc of all people between 10 and 15 have experience at least one crime in the last year. However, it is impossible to establish just how widespread the problem is as the British Crime Survey, which forms the basis of all Home Office policy, does not record the ages of crime victims.

Read together, these two facts seem nonsensical.

How can effective policies be put in place to curb such a problem if the government does not even formally acknowledge it?

One group determined to rectify this situation is Victim Support Norfolk which has just set up the country's first Youth Advisory Panel aimed at helping young people express views so the charity can improve its service.

Youth development officer Lorna Vyse said: “It is not widely known that young people are more likely to be victims than any other group in the community. We are the first victim-support branch in the country to form a youth advisory panel, and we now want to recruit more 12 to 17- year-olds who can give up half a day a month to make a difference to our support for these young victims.”

As well as providing a much-needed teenage viewpoint, the young volunteers are offered valuable experience including media-skills training and helping design activities for work in schools.

One aim of the panel is to have young people recognised by the British Crime Survey.