The number of crimes committed by young children in South Yorkshire has more than doubled in the last five years.
Children under the age of ten have committed crimes including rape and sexual assault, details obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. Figures show 324 crimes have been committed by children who are considered too young to prosecute between 2011 and 2015.
The crimes reported to South Yorkshire Police concern children aged between the age of four and nine, with the number of crimes spiralling from 46 in 2011 to 124 last year.
A breakdown of the 202 crimes committed in 2014 and 2015 include 34 crimes of sexual activity involving a child under 13, seven of rape of a female child under 13 and two of rape of a male child under 13. Assaults with injury accounted for 29 crimes and 65 reports of criminal damage were reported over the last two years.
Statistics for the last two years also revealed 23 offences of shoplifting and six incidents of arson.
Over the last two years, three four-year-olds, 11 five-year-olds and 20 six year-olds were among the suspects.
Reports of children committing crimes has increased year on year with 46 crimes reported in 2011, 44 in 2012, 50 in 2013, 78 in 2014 and 124 in 2015.
South Yorkshire Police said since 2014 there has been a change in protocol to ensure every incident reported is recorded as a crime which has resulted in an increase in the figures.
If a child is nine or under, he or she cannot be charged with an offence but the crime is recorded by police.
Chief Supt Rob Odell of South Yorkshire Police said: “Whilst some of these incidents are very serious in nature, as those involved are under the age of criminal responsibility, a prosecution cannot be brought against them.
“However, we do invest a great deal of time working with our partner organisations and the parents or guardians of those involved, to put in place support and safeguarding measures and to provide reassurance and assistance wherever possible.”
Doncaster Children’s Services Trust revealed it is launching a new prevention team next month in a bid to work with vulnerable youngsters.
Paul Moffat, Chief Executive of the Trust, said: “Our new prevention team will be launched next month to work with young people who are on the very edge of offending.
“We aim to help them make more positive choices and prevent them from entering the criminal justice system.
“We will be working with our Team Doncaster partners to achieve this.”
Children’s charity Action for Children said the shocking crimes confirmed it was vital to secure the right level of funding an resources to stop the flow of younger children committing crimes.
John Egan, the charity’s director of children’s services across Yorkshire, said: “No child is born a criminal and it’s crucial that we’re able to identify children under the age of ten who are more at risk to criminal activity as they often require immediate and specialist support from agencies across social care and criminal justice.
“Once we know who they are, we can help provide support to encourage these children to choose a different path.
“There is much work to be done, as demonstrated by the figures released from South Yorkshire Police.
“Dedicated resources including the right level of funding is needed to stop the flow of younger children ruining their lives and the lives of those around them, while reducing the overall impact of crime in the region.
“It is very shocking to hear details of a ten year-old committing a sexual assault, especially using significant violence. The immediate priority is ensuring any victim of crime is supported.”