Shock youth crime figures revealed

VIOLENT crimes committed by young people in Essex have soared by nearly 50% in the past year, according to shocking figures today revealed by the EADT.

VIOLENT crimes committed by young people in Essex have soared by nearly 50% in the past year, according to shocking figures today revealed by the EADT.

In 2004-5, there were 1,282 violent crimes committed by young people in the county, compared to 867 in 2003-4 - a rise of 48%.

The figures mirror a general increase in youth offending across the county in which the overall crime rate has rocketed from 4,680 to 6,184 during the same period. The number of burglaries has also risen from 118 to 174 - a rise of 47%.

The rise in violent crime comes amid moves by Essex Police to attract “centre of excellence” status for the work it does in lowering young offender rates.

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The rise has been attributed to both an increase in violent and criminal behaviour and better information sharing between police and the county's youth offending personnel, who are employed by Essex County Council.

Essex Chief Constable Roger Baker yesterday said he had not seen these particular figures - supplied to the EADT by the county council - and was therefore unable to comment on them in detail.

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But he did reassure the Essex public by saying: “We are on top of these crime issues and we are working hard with other agencies on all forms of crime, especially violent crime and burglary, across all age groups.”

“From what I've seen, and I am new here, the work of those involved in the criminal justice system here in Essex is second to none.

“One vitally important point to make about youth crime is that young people have a tendency to be seen primarily as the cause of crime. In fact, young people tend to be the victims of crime more often than any other group.”

A spokeswoman for the county council said: “There has been a definite rise in violent offences committed by people known to the Essex Youth Offending Team over the last year, as there has been across the country. Our figures also reflect that Essex is such a large authority compared to others.

“Throughout the last year Essex Youth Offending Team has piloted and implemented a secure email system, which has significantly improved the flow of information between Essex Police and Essex Youth Offending Team.

“This has enabled us to work much more efficiently in obtaining young offender information and partly explains why the figures have risen sharply over the last year.

“Overall we believe Essex is a safe place to live and the recent quality assurance inspection by the Youth Justice Board indicates the way we manage our most high risk prolific offenders has been commended.”

The Essex Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership is currently trying to become a “centre of excellence” in dealing with youth crime.

The partnership's goals include dealing speedily with young offenders and cutting re-offending by making them aware of how their activities affect those around them.

It also aims to get young offenders to make reparations to their victims and to reinforce the responsibilities of parents.

Motoring offences committed by young people in 2004-5 are up from 743 to 845 though drugs offences have fallen slightly, from 224 to 200.

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