Page last updated at 05:27 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 06:27 UK

Crime survey to include children

Child using mobile phone
Many children carry expensive gadgets - putting them at more risk of crime

Children under 16 are to be included in the British Crime Survey for the first time, the home secretary has announced.

While expected to cause a rise in crime statistics, Jacqui Smith said the move would offer an understanding of how crime affects young people.

Children's groups want youngsters to be included in the BCS and Ms Smith has asked for views on how to survey them.

Meanwhile, research suggests that one in eight children aged 11 to 16 has been the victim of a gadget theft.

Children's groups say there is no reason for young people not to be surveyed and the Home Office is appealing for advice on which age groups should take part in the BCS.

This could result in children under 10 - who legally cannot be held responsible for their actions - being asked if they have been victims of crime.

Children are amongst the most victimised of all age groups when it comes to crimes like violence, and yet we more often hear about children as criminals themselves.
Kathy Evans, The Children's Society

The BCS is currently based on the conclusions of 40,000 interviews conducted with adults about their experience of crime.

Ms Smith said: "We know that young people remain more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators.

"Extending the BCS will help us to understand better how crime affects young people and do even more to prevent it."

'Staggering complacency'

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, welcomed the changes but said the BSC failed to count other serious crimes such as murder, rape, shoplifting and fraud.

"This demonstrates Labour's staggering complacency - if you don't count crime properly, how can you cut it?," Mr Davis said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne also greeted the move, but said more needed to be done to deal with weapons like guns and knives.

"The government has got to take action to get these weapons off our streets by reaching out to communities and using intelligence-led stop and search."

Tim Bateman, of crime reduction charity Nacro, said the decision "should go some way to redressing the balance between the public's perception that young people are primarily offenders and the reality that they are subject to relatively high levels of victimisation".

Expensive belongings

Kathy Evans, Director of Policy at The Children's Society, said the extension of the British Crime Survey to include children was long-overdue.

"Children are amongst the most victimised of all age groups when it comes to crimes like violence, and yet we more often hear about children as criminals themselves.

"It is essential, when the BCS is so influential in public policy on crime, that it should include a truer picture of the volume and type of offences against crime's youngest victims," she added.

Design Council poll findings
One in eight children has had a gadget stolen in the last three years
One in three were occupied - listening to music, texting, talking on a mobile - when the item was stolen
97% carry an expensive item on them; 85% frequently carry a mobile phone
Almost half of those who carry an expensive item estimate its value at 100 to 500

The announcement comes as a poll conducted for the Design Council shows that children are vulnerable to crime - one in eight has had a gadget stolen in the last three years.

The poll of 1,000 children aged 11 to 16 found that one in three victims were listening to music on headphones, talking on a mobile, texting, or playing games on a console when their item was stolen.

It also found that 97% of children carry expensive belongings on them, with almost half estimating the value of their product at between 100 and 500.

Bags which 'scream'

UK technology designers and manufacturers will join the home secretary later at an event, hosted by the Design Council, to discuss new ways of harnessing design power to combat crime.

Initiatives include chairs with hidden compartments to hold personal belongings, bags which "scream" when snatched, and "M"- shaped bike racks which encourage cyclists to lock up their bikes properly.

The Home Office use two methods to count crime; the BCS and Recorded Crime statistics.

The BCS interviews 40,000 people over a 12-month period to determine their experience of crime.

The Recorded Crime statistics are the number reported to the police.


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