Number of crimes by girls in Britain rockets

LONDON Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:07pm EST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The number of crimes committed by girls in Britain has soared by 22 percent in the last four years, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice.

The number of racially aggravated crimes committed by girls more than doubled from 351 to 748, while violent attacks were up 48 percent and public order offences rose 37 percent.

A report said the overall number of offences committed by girls aged 10 to 17 had risen from 47,358 in 2003/4 to 57,962 in 2007/8.

Although boys committed far more crimes, 220,024 in 2007/8, the number of cases involving boys dealt with by Youth Offending Teams fell by 9 percent in the same four-year period.

"The increase in racially aggravated offences may indicate ... greater willingness to report these offences on the part of victims and improved recording of them rather than a change in underlying behavior," the report said.

"These differences vary from offence to offence, and there is some evidence of convergence in offending rates over time."

However, the figures said girls had carried out fewer vehicle thefts, burglaries and drug offences than four years ago.

Jackie Worrall, director of policy and public affairs for the crime reduction charity Nacro, told the BBC the figures may not reflect the true picture.

"Police targets in relation to bringing offenders to justice mean they have been going for the soft targets, and girls are the soft target," she said. "The offences they commit are usually fairly petty."

The report also contains details of a survey which showed the number of girls and young women aged 10 to 25 who admitted an offence had also risen by six percent to 17 percent from 1998/9 to 2006.

"It is possible that girls' willingness to admit offences has increased in tandem with society's expectations about their behavior," the report said.

Overall while it said there was convergence between the sexes in less serious offending, men were more likely to be involved in serious crime.

(Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato)

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