Dorset

Dorset child crime spike 'coincides with youth service cuts'

Young offender Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Youth crime rates have risen in Dorset despite falling nationally

A rise in youth crime has coincided with a "huge drop" in youth service funding, a police and crime commissioner (PCC) has said.

Dorset's youth crime rates have risen for two years, as national rates fell.

Statistics show 344 young people per 100,000 entered the youth justice system in Dorset for the first time in 2017/18, compared with a national average of 237.

Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill said cuts led to anti-social behaviour.

Image copyright Dorset Combined Youth Offending Service
Image caption The rate of first-time entrants (FTEs) to the youth justice system rose in Dorset between 2016 and 2018

Simon Bullock, PCC office chief executive, said the rise was a "cause for concern", in a report to the county's Police and Crime Panel.

He added: "National and regional averages have continued to decline and it is therefore worrying that children in Dorset now seem more likely to enter the justice system than children elsewhere."

'Complex reasons'

Budget cuts to youth services and a rise in school exclusions were potential reasons for the rise, Mr Bullock said.

"Dorset County Council took the decision in 2016 to reduce their youth budget from £2.2 million to no more than £1.2 million," his report added.

In a statement after the panel meeting, Mr Underhill said he would investigate the "complex reasons" for the rise, which he said "has coincided with a huge drop in local authority funding to youth services".

He added: "We all know the reduction of youth services translates into poor school attendance, an increase in children who are not in education, employment or training, as well as an increase in exclusions and an increase in youth anti-social behaviour."

The commissioner was not available for interview about the effect of youth service cuts elsewhere, his office said.

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