Schoolchildren crime survey points to need for community programmes

half of secondary school pupils in England, Scotland and Wales have broken the
law according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Nearly one in four 15 and 16-year -old boys
said they had carried a knife or other weapon during the past year and almost
one in five admitted attacking someone with the intention of hurting them
seriously. Nearly four out of 10 of all young people agreed it was
"alright to beat people up if they start the fight".

Vandalism, shoplifting and other less serious
property crimes were committed by a large minority of girls as well as boys.
This type of offending peaked among 14 and 15 year olds where a third of
students said they had committed criminal damage and a quarter reported
shoplifting in the past year.

Serious property crimes such as burglary and
car theft were less common and predominantly admitted by boys. Ten per cent of
boys aged 15 and 16 said they had broken into a building to steal during the
previous year including 4 per cent who reported doing so three or more times.

The survey of 14,000 secondary school
students also reveals that a number of young people in their early teens take
part in binge drinking, with a quarter of 13 and 14-year-old students saying
they have recently downed five or more alcoholic drinks in a single session.
Nine per cent of boys and 5 per cent of 11 and 12-year-old girls described
themselves as regular drinkers.

More young people said they had used cannabis
than any other illegal drug. A quarter of girls and nearly a third of 15 and
16-year-old boys said they had used cannabis at least once but the reported use
of more harmful illegal drugs was relatively low.

Although most young people said they liked
the neighbourhoods where they lived about a fifth felt no attachment to their
communities and reported significant levels of crime, drug dealing and other
anti-social activity. A similar proportion said they felt unsafe going out
after dark.

Barry Anderson chief executive of Communities
that Care, who carried out the survey, and co-author of the report said the
survey showed the potential for programmes like CtC to prevent antisocial
behaviour by tackling the underlying risk factors.

He described the findings on violence and
under age alcohol consumption as "particularly worrying" but added
that "to brand young people in general as a problem would run counter to
the evidence and make it harder to respond effectively to the minority whose
behaviour does cause problems."

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