Children as young as 10 are responsible for an appalling catalogue of crimes across Blackpool, new figures today reveal.
Findings released by the Ministry of Justice lay bare the levels of offending by resort youngsters aged 10 to 17 - with younger children the worst offenders.
One MP today said the findings were “concerning” and blamed funding cuts to police and the probation services for the figures.
But community leaders in Blackpool told The Gazette they were not shocked by the data, and have seen the levels of youth crime grow steadily worse over the years.
The data comes just two days after The Gazette revealed concerns that policing levels across Lancashire had dropped below 3,000 for the first time since figures were first recorded.
Among the most serious incidents include 17 youths charged with sexual offences in the past year, including one between the age of 10 to 14, and 10 aged just 15.
Close to 100 youngsters were charged with handling stolen goods, while a further 65 were charged with criminal damage.
The figures revealed high levels of violence, with 139 youths charged with attacks – 44 of which were in the 10 to 14-year-old bracket.
Last year 603 offences were attributed to people aged 17 and under, including crimes such as drug use, burglary and public order offences.
Community leaders today warned the figures prove more needs to be done to help the resort’s teenagers, some of whom believe they are simply “untouchable” when it comes to crime.
Lawrence Hancock, leader of the award-winning Boathouse Youth Project in South Shore, said “the devil makes work for idle hands”, as he argued that the shock figures show there needs to be investment in opportunities for young people in Blackpool in order for them to make “positive choices”.
Hesaid: “It can be easy to blame children but you have to look at the generation raising them.
“Children are learning all the time, it can be what they’re being taught that’s the problem.
“That’s what needs to be addressed, either by targeting parents or investing in professionals to provide positive role models, such as youth workers.
“They say ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’.
“Investment needs to be made to provide positive influence for young people.”
Coun Ivan Taylor said that he was not shocked by the figures which caused him great concern but that parents must take the “primary” responsibility, or seek help if they struggle.
The Blackpool Council cabinet member for children’s services added: “It’s a tragedy when children get involved in crime in this way and our job is to do what we can to help these children and their families.
“There is good work going on in youth work in Blackpool and opportunities available to young people. You’ve got to work with children to get them into those facilities, to divert them from crime and into more positive activities.”
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South said: “These figures are of concern although of course we do not know how many of these people are actually from Blackpool. Clearly these are difficult times and it is really quite important in these circumstances youth and probation services are struggling – there has been funding cuts in both areas.”
Bruce Allen, of the Clifton Community Group, said: “We’ve noticed this trend from young people. There is a general consensus from 10 to 14-year-olds is that they can’t be touched or prosecuted.
“That is the way they are. Children feel they are invulnerable. Mothers and fathers tell them they can’t be touched.
“I have known incidents of shoplifting and drinking at a very young age – how can you win with that attitude?
“There are also young people getting drugs. These figures do not shock me. A lot goes unreported. There has got to be an answer but what is it?”
Terry Bennett, of the Grange Park Community Partnership, said: “The figures are spread across the whole of Blackpool, not just the poor wards.
“I would not say I am shocked or surprised. There are 140,000 people in Blackpool, with that number increasing by 50 per cent when you get seasonal people in.
“When you look at the population we have you can see why.
“We do try to educate young people properly.”
Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed in 2013 to 2014 there were 26 10 to 14-year-olds charged with criminal damage.
In the same age bracket, 15 people were charged with thefts, with 16 10 to 14-year-olds breaching statutory orders and a further 16 breaching bail conditions.
Compared to the year before there were 21 incidents of criminal damage, 10 of burglary, 23 incidents of handling stolen goods or thefts and 43 acts of violence for the same age range.
Both years saw one sexual offence charge for the 10 to 14 year old age range, but drug charges did drop from five to two between 2012-13 and 2013-14 for the youngest offenders.
The Gazette reported on Saturday how there are now fewer than 3,000 police officers in Lancashire for the first time since official records began in 1976.
And that has led to concerns from rank and file officers that police on the front line are struggling to cope.
Police federation bosses say sickness levels have increased and increasing work pressures mean many incidents are no longer logged as crimes.
The Gazette asked for an interview with senior officers to answer concerns over the Ministry of Justice figures, but were told no one was available.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said the force has special teams in place which look to stop youth offending.
He added: “We have Early Action Teams based in each division to try and prevent youths at risk of becoming involved in criminality. These teams try to get to the root cause of issues that could be pushing youngsters towards a life of crime.”