Bedfordshire Police made 682 arrests children aged 17 and under in 2018
Howard League for Penal Reform research published today (9 December 2019) has found that arrests of children in Bedfordshire has reduced by 63 per cent in eight years.
The report says that Bedfordshire Police made 682 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under in 2018. This compares to 943 in the previous year and 1,853 back in 2010, when the Howard League launched a major campaign to reduce child arrests nationwide.
The Howard LeagueAcademic says that research has shown that each contact a child has with the criminal justice system drags them deeper into it, leading to more crime.
It adds that this is why it is working with police forces across England and Wales to keep as many children as possible out of the system in the first place.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
“Tens of thousands of children can look forward to a brighter future without their lives being blighted by police contact and a criminal record.
“Bedfordshire Police and other forces up and down the country have diverted resources to tackling serious crime instead of arresting naughty children. This will make communities safer, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part.
“Building on this success and reducing the number of arrests still further would allow even more children to thrive.”
Across England and Wales the total number of child arrests has been reduced every year since the campaign began
The penal reform charity adds that the figures for Bedfordshire are in line with the national trend. Data from more than 40 police forces show that they made 70,078 arrests of children in 2018 – a reduction of more than 70 per cent from almost 250,000 in 2010.
Across England and Wales, the total number of child arrests has been reduced every year since the campaign began. Over the same period, the number of children in prison has been reduced by 63 per cent.
Some police forces recorded an increase in arrests between 2017 and 2018. The Howard League is studying the figures and hopes to meet with these forces to explore how the number of arrests can be reduced in future.
Child arrest figures for Bedfordshire Police (data supplied by The Howard League for Penal Reform)
Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire said:
“We do not want to criminalise children unnecessarily, particularly if they themselves are actually victims of exploitation in drugs lines or similar, so it is pleasing that the number of young people arrested in Bedfordshire has continued to fall.
“We recognise the value of alternative ways of dealing with young people involved in crime, and the importance of understanding the root cause of behaviour so we can work with partners to offer support and divert them away from becoming entrenched in criminality. That approach is key to the innovative Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) – a partnership approach across Bedfordshire to identify and deal with the issues behind violent crime which has been launched following Home Office funding.
“Sadly there will be occasions where criminal sanctions are the only option. But it is important that we do all we can, with partners and indeed families and communities, to understand the causes of young people becoming involved in crime and help steer them onto the straight and narrow.”
Head of the VERU Kimberley Lamb said:
“Working with children and young people and diverting them away from violence and exploitation is our driving focus.
“The police are one of our key partners around this and I think these figures show they understand the need to work with children, who are often vulnerable and can be exploited into offending.
“We will be investing in projects across the county over the coming months that can offer our young people a different path, while laying the foundations for further progress across all our services in Bedfordshire to help those at risk.”