Welwyn Hatfield youth crime figures revealed

FIGURES which show the total number of crimes youngsters across Welwyn Hatfield have committed have been revealed.

They also detail the number of youths who are kept out of the court system.

The figures were released after a Freedom of Information request by the Welwyn Hatfield Times.

Youngsters aged from 10 to 17 can be issued reprimands or final warnings by Herts Police, as a way to help them get back on the straight and narrow.

In Hertfordshire 756 crimes in the last year were dealt with in this way, compared to 1,249 crimes in the same age group which entered the courts.

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In Welwyn Hatfield 63 crimes resulted in reprimands and final warning being issued, compared to 94 entering the courts, and in Potters Bar the figures were 12 and seven respectively.

Offences range from arson, burglary, GBH, threats to kill and possession of drugs as well as many incidents of theft and shoplifting.

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Youth engagement and early intervention inspector Lara Stevenson told the Welwyn Hatfield Times the system was working to bring down the numbers of youngsters going into the criminal justice system.

She said: “To receive a warning or reprimand, they have to admit their guilt,

“A reprimand is given if this is the first time they have ever been in trouble and it is a relatively minor offence.

“It just involves police.”

A final warning is issued if the youngster has committed a second crime and means the youth justice team is brought in to look at their family situation too.

Insp Stevenson said: “Kids don’t just commit crime for the thrill of it, there are all sorts of things that might be going on, at a final warning that is looked at.”

She explained although both warnings and reprimands do appear on your criminal record, they are not listed as convictions.

Youngsters who opt not to receive either a warning or reprimand and are convicted within the court system are changing their futures.

She said: “Criminal convictions now stay with you for life, they don’t get cleared after five years or when you turn 18.

“It can affect college applications or visas to go on holiday.”

But she added total crime among children and young people in Hertfordshire had been falling over the last few years.

The figures reveal the most common crime among youngsters in Welwyn Hatfield is possession of cannabis, with 10 of the 63 crimes drug-related.

Insp Stevenson said crimes that were drug-related could not be dealth with using warnings or reprimands.

“Under 18s have to be arrested because we don’t have any option,” she said.

“Any drugs effect the growing brain so ACPO [Association of Chief Police Officers] still wants us to come down hard.”

Joe Heeney from Welwyn Hatfield Resolve, which helps adults with drink and drugs problems said criminalising youngsters was not the answer.

He said: “The problem with this country is the way it dishes out punitive punishments, criminalising people involved with drugs.

“The drugs problem is an endemic issue. If people are put in the system, they are less likely to accept help with their problems.

“I would always advise in the first instance to educate them about drugs.”

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