ARRESTS of children in the West Midlands have been cut by two-thirds in the last seven years, figures published today reveal.
The data has been uncovered by national charity the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Its research found West Midlands Police made 4,674 arrests of children aged 17 and under last year, down from 14,387 in 2010 – a reduction of 68 per cent.
It matches the national percentage reduction across England and Wales, where the total number of child arrests has been cut from almost 250,000 in 2010 to 79,012 last year.
The charity says the statistics, compiled from responses to Freedom of Information requests, show the continued success of a major Howard League programme.
It involves working with police forces to keep as many boys and girls as possible out of the criminal justice system.
The total number of arrests has been reduced every year since the Howard League campaign began in 2010, and the impact can be seen in every police force area in the country, it says.
The charity’s research briefing, Child arrests in England and Wales 2017, explores some of the changes that police forces have made to reduce arrest numbers, while also shining new light on areas where further progress can be achieved.
In particular, it identifies the criminalisation of children in residential care, the criminalisation of children who are being exploited by county lines gangs, and the disproportionate levels of criminalisation of children from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as key areas that all forces should be aware of and actively seek to address.
Keeping children out of the criminal justice system helps prevent crime, the campaign argues. It says academic research has shown that the more contact a child has with the system, the more entrenched they are likely to become, which increases offending rates.
The number of children in prison in England and Wales was reduced by more than 60 per cent between 2010 and 2017.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the seventh year in a row that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of child arrests across England and Wales, and West Midlands Police’s positive approach has contributed to that transformation.
“It is a phenomenal achievement by the police and the Howard League, and it means that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future without their life chances being blighted by unnecessary police contact and criminal records.
“We have come a long way, but there is still more work to do. The Howard League has launched a programme to end the criminalisation of children in residential care, and our research also highlights the need for better understanding of child criminal exploitation. Children who have been trafficked to commit crime should be seen as victims first and foremost.”
Every police force in England and Wales made fewer child arrests in 2017 than in 2010.
Arrests of primary school-age children have also been reduced. There were 616 arrests of 10- and 11-year-olds in 2017, a reduction of 12 per cent from the previous year.