Fewer young offenders

THE number of young people offending has dropped by more than 20 per cent over the past year.

In 2010-11 Hartlepool’s Youth Offending Service (YOS) – which focuses on young people aged between 10 and 17 – dealt with a total of 236 young offenders who committed 492 offences.

That represents a 21.5 per cent drop in offenders – down from 301 – and a 22.1 per cent reduction in the number of offences, down from 632 the previous year.

Of the 236 offenders last year, 193 were male and 43 female.

The majority of offences, 108, were for theft and handling, and 89 public order offences.

Meanwhile, the number of young people entering the criminal justice system for the first time has dropped from 134 in 2009-10 to 86 last year.

That figure peaked at 298 in 2006-07.

The multi-agency Hartlepool YOS was created in April 2000 and it is made up of representatives from Hartlepool Borough Council, police, probation, health and education services.

Council bosses say identifying young people early and stopping them falling into the criminal justice system to start with is the key.

Staff from the service work closely with schools in town to target young people and identify risks, whether it be substance or alcohol abuse or problems at home.

The figures were published in the draft youth justice strategic plan for 2011-12 – which was backed by councillors at a recent meeting of the full council.

A report by Sally Robinson, the council’s assistant director of prevention, safeguarding and specialist services, said: “The plan reflects upon a reduction in both the number of offenders and the number of offences committed during that year when compared with the previous year.

“There has also been a reduction in the number of first time entrants to the youth justice system and the plan provides details of the council’s preventative work in partnership with the police that has proved successful in deterring young people from entering the youth justice system.

“Nevertheless, the plan highlights that the needs of children and young people who remain in the system are high and these young people require intensive support and close supervision.”

The plan was developed after consultation with a range of people and groups including children and young people in the youth justice system, their families, the police, victims of crime and voluntary sector providers.

As well as highlighting the work done in previous years, it also outlined the priorities for the coming year.

They include effective risk management of all young people, to reduce the number of first time entrants and to further reduce offending of those in the system.

Annual priorities include tackling violent crime, anti-social behaviour and criminal damage.

The work of the YOS, which has a £1.2m budget, is overseen by the strategic management board.