Youth crime falls to ten-year low

216 youngsters were referred to the Children's Reporter for an offence in 2012-13. Picture: Toby Williams
216 youngsters were referred to the Children's Reporter for an offence in 2012-13. Picture: Toby Williams
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RATES of youth offending in the Capital have plunged to a ten-year low, new figures show.

The dramatic drop has been revealed in statistics from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, which show 216 youngsters were referred for an offence in 2012-13 – down from 299 the previous year and 921 in 2005-06.

Overall referrals, which include children at risk, from Edinburgh have also fallen significantly – to 1836 in 2012-13 from 4765 six years earlier.

Police and child safety bosses have hailed the data as proof that a new, intervention-based approach to tackling persistent youth offending on the city’s streets is bearing fruit.

Stephen Harte, team worker at the city council’s youth offending service, who manages social workers, said: “We thought the figure for referrals would plateau and stick at around 380 – but we’ve been able to bring it down even further.

“The fact it came down by that much surprised even us.”

Mr Harte said the positive trend was due to much stronger partnership working, which meant offences were being tackled head-on by teachers, social workers, health professionals and police within days of being reported.

The net result is that the Capital’s children are far less likely to become trapped in the criminal justice system, he added.

He said: “What we are able to do is get to many people young people with problems much earlier than we were previously.

“We have weekly meetings with police and colleagues in education and social workers, where we essentially talk about every single kid who has offended in Edinburgh.

“It means that when young people show up on the radar, we’re able to get to them much quicker. It means we can sift for the repeat offenders much more effectively and get the best resources to them – whether that’s a health worker or maybe a teacher at school they have a good relationship with.

“And it means we’re more likely to stop them offending in the first place.”

But he stressed that child welfare and safety officers were far from complacent about levels of youth offending in the city.

“We have evidence we can stop young people offending but there’s still a hard core number we are working with to reduce that number further,” he said.

The reduction in referrals has also been hailed by Police Scotland bosses.

Sergeant Donald Hossack, from the juvenile liaison team, said: “Police Scotland welcomes this drop in youth crime, which can be attributed to the close partnership working with our partner agencies within Edinburgh.”

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s children and families leader, called the drop “really encouraging”.

He said: “One of the real benefits has been the speed of response, which means a young person and their family can now be seen by the right service within days of an offence instead of weeks or even, in some cases, months.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com