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On the map Youth crime - Thousands still end up in trouble

Compared to a handful of years ago, fewer young people are embarking on a life of crime. Of course, what constitutes a crime is in some cases subjective, as one person's high jinks is another person's threatening behaviour.

Changes in detection rates can also affect the figures for young people being criminalised. Nevertheless, the number of 10 to 17-year-olds entering England's criminal justice system - by receiving their first reprimand, warning or conviction - fell by almost a quarter between 2003-04 and 2008-09, from over 86,000 to 66,000. But while this may be a substantial drop, it is still over 5,000 young people a month, or around 1,200 a week, getting a criminal record for life.

Proportionally more young criminals come from deprived areas, so relatively large numbers from Sunderland and Newham, for example, are perhaps not surprising. Neither are the small numbers from areas such as Bracknell Forest in leafy Berkshire, and upmarket Poole in the South West. Large cities such as Leeds, Manchester, or Birmingham - where the first youth court was established just over 100 years ago - are near the top of any list because of their sheer size, as are Essex, Lancashire and Kent.

There is a link between schooling and society, and it will be interesting to see how moves by the coalition Government to improve discipline in schools affects the criminal justice system. Certainly, bored youngsters who bunk off school are more likely to fall into a life of crime than those enjoying a meaningful curriculum that will eventually lead to a job, and to an adult life as a productive member of society.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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