Drugs and theft most likely first offences to be committed by children
PUBLISHED: 15:03 23 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:21 23 February 2019
Almost one in five first crimes committed by child offenders in Suffolk are drug-related, figures have revealed.
The proportion of drug offences among children experiencing their first brush with the law more than trebled in 10 years.
Drugs accounted for 5.5% of crimes committed by juvenile first time entrants to the criminal justice system in the year ending September 2008.
But the rate reached 18% during the latest 12-month period – making drugs the most common type of first crime committed by under-18s, alongside theft.
Almost all other offence types reduced in frequency over the last decade – including theft, which accounted for more than a third of the total in 2008.
The rising percentage of drug offences was less notable across the rest of the country – from 7% to 11% on average.
Overall, Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statistics showed a huge 90% fall in Suffolk juveniles receiving their first reprimand, warning, caution or conviction since 2008 – from 1,176 to 129.
The decade decline followed a three-year rise, which a 2017 MoJ report suggested was due to police focusing on low-level offences in order to hit targets for closing the gap between recorded crime and identified offenders – before targets were revised in 2008 to focus on serious offences less likely to be committed by youths.
Children were almost twice as likely as adults to enter the system for drug offences last year. Among adults, the rate hardly changed – going up less than 1% in 10 years.
In that time, children became more likely to be dealt with by way of conviction for first-time drug offences – as the proportion let off with a caution, reprimand or warning fell from 92% to 70%.
A Suffolk police spokesman said drug crime was a complex social problem with links to violent gang related offences, requiring input and action by partners to address root causes and long-term effects.
They added: “Our youth gangs prevention team is dedicated to focussing on prevention and early intervention of children and young people associated with drug related crime and has generated many successful outcomes.
“We will also look to identify those who are being exploited by their vulnerability, continue to work in partnership with other agencies and continue to gain intelligence and evidence so those responsible are bought to justice and convicted.”