THE number of children being arrested by the force has dropped dramatically in the past five years, new figures have revealed.
Statistics released today (May 27) by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed just 1067 under 18s were arrested in Cambridgeshire in 2013, one of the lowest figures in the country.
The report also showed the number of child arrests in the county had dropped every year since 2008, when the figure was over 4000.
Only five forces in the country arrested fewer children last year.
Chief Constable Simon Parr said the “huge reduction” in the number of children arrested in the past few years had coincided with the introduction of restorative justice and a drive towards using more effective and appropriate ways of dealing with young offenders.
He said: “It is great news that the number of children reaching the age of 18 in Cambridgeshire with a criminal record has dropped so dramatically.
“In most cases, we do not believe custody is a place for children because there are more effective methods which actually reduce the chances of re-offending.
“Restorative justice, which is often used when dealing young first-time offenders, gives an officer the opportunity to resolve a situation successfully, with the approval of the victim, without arresting and criminalising the person responsible.
“The process gives victims the chance to tell offenders the real impact of their crime, to get answers to questions and an apology, while offenders are given the chance to take responsibility for what they’ve done and make amends but not acquire the stigma of a criminal record.”
Custody staff and duty managers are urged to carefully consider whether children need to be kept in custody overnight and a new under-15s category has been added to force statistics to give leaders greater visibility of detainees who are most vulnerable by virtue of their age.
In addition, the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s independent custody visitors, who sit on the force’s custody steering group, pay regular visits to custody units across the force to check on the welfare of detainees, including vulnerable people such as children.
Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright said: “This is a result of an huge amount of work in Cambridgeshire to see that we are using our cells for the right people. Alternative interventions have ensured our cells are used for those for whom there is no alternative to custody.
“This is supported by excellent partnerships between the police, local authorities and schools to prevent young people getting into trouble in the first place by working with those most at risk of ending up in police custody.”
The report gives the number of child arrests in Cambridgeshire as: 2008 – 4054, 2009 – 3795, 2010 – 3440, 2011 – 2099, 2012 – 1473, 2013 – 1067.
Between April 2011, when it was introduced, and March this year, restorative justice has been used to deal with 4614 offenders, of which just under half, 2204, were under 18.