Youth violence rockets by 28%

THE shocking scale of Suffolk's youth violence can be revealed today, with figures showing the level of assaults by children has risen by 28% in the past 12 months.

By Danielle Nuttall

THE shocking scale of Suffolk's youth violence can be revealed today, with figures showing the level of assaults by children has risen by 28% in the past 12 months.

Data obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times reveals the number of 'violence against the person' offences committed by children has soared from 728 between October 2003 and September 2004 to 934 for the same period this year.

About 70% of these offences involved some form of common assault, assault by beating or assault on a police officer.

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Meanwhile, the number of youths committing domestic burglaries increased by 25%, mirroring Suffolk's overall burglary performance in the past six months which saw a rise of 15.9%.

The figures, released by the Youth Offending Service and Suffolk County Council, show there has been a slight fall overall in the number of offences committed by young people, which refers to children aged between 10 and 17.

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Offences fell from 4,617 between October 2003 and September 2004 to 4,598 this year. This includes a 35% fall in youths committing motoring offences and a 15% drop in drugs offences.

Suffolk's rise in youth violence has been put down to Suffolk Constabulary's drive to target violent crime and alcohol-related aggression, which has resulted in more arrests.

Cllr Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said: “We want to try and prevent young people committing crimes or anti-social behaviour, and rises in offences such as violence and burglary are disappointing. However, the Youth Offending Service is working closely with the police and other organisations to try and prevent young people turning to crime.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart Gull, of Suffolk police, added: “Latest crime figures (April- September 05) show that violent crime in Suffolk has fallen for the first time in eight years.

“Overall recorded crime is also down - and the proportion of local people impressed with the performance of their police force remains the highest in the country.

“Suffolk Police has made targeting violent crime in public places a top priority - and the increase in detections for violent offences committed by youths underlines our determination to tackle this type of crime.”

But Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said he was “seriously shocked” by the high level of violence committed by youths, and said parents with children under 17 should be made to appear in court if their child behaved in this way.

“Parents have the first responsibility in this. Society needs to support parents in fulfilling their responsibility,” he said.

“People normally demand what the schools are doing about it but teachers are very often faced with children who have never been disciplined at home and do not understand what the word 'no' means.

“The parents should answer to the court for what the children have done.”

Suffolk's Youth Offending Service has made addressing anger management and violence one of its top priorities.

It regularly meets with anti-social behaviour co-ordinators employed by borough and district councils to identify violent youngsters.

A Youth Inclusion Support Project, funded by the Children's Fund, has been set up in Ipswich to work with young people whose behaviour puts them at risk of offending or anti-social behaviour and the service says early signs are encouraging.

There are also three victim officers who contact victims of youth crime to offer them the chance to have direct or indirect mediation with young offenders in a bid to stop violent situations reoccurring.

Between July 1 and September 30 this year, 29 victims agreed to take part in direct mediation while another 29 agreed to take part in an indirect form of mediation.

John Budd, chairman of the Suffolk Criminal Justice Board and Chief Probation Officer for Suffolk, said: “We are continually working towards an improvement in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system as a whole, leading to a better service and safer environment for the public of Suffolk.

“Although confidence in the way young offenders are dealt with in Suffolk appears to be low, close working relationships have resulted in Suffolk being one of the best counties at dealing with Persistent Young Offenders (PYOs) quickly and effectively.

“The average period from arrest to sentence in Suffolk for PYOs, was 32 days in June 2005. The national average for the same period was 65 days and the target is within 71 days.”

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