Gangs are grooming six-year-old children to steal from cars in similar tactics to county lines drug runners
- Children as young as six are caught stealing from cars by organised crime gangs
- Vehicle crime study in the UK showed 39,635 offences committed by children
- Around 40 per cent of those were carried out by children aged 15 or younger
The huge number of children being lured into car crime can today be revealed as a police chief warns that gangs are using county lines tactics.
Children as young as six are caught stealing from cars and organised crime groups use messaging apps like WhatsApp to groom thousands of teenagers.
A study of vehicle crime in the UK has revealed that 39,635 offences were committed by children as young as six in the past five years.
Sir David Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, said children were being sent out with a shopping list of cars to hunt for after being lured with cash, clothing and trainers by gangs, who often have links to the drug trade (stock image)
Police figures show 40 per cent of those offences were carried out by those aged 15 or younger.
Sir David Thompson, Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, said children were being sent out with a shopping list of cars to hunt for after being lured with cash, clothing and trainers by gangs, who often have links to the drug trade.
He spoke out as official figures – revealed under freedom of information laws – show that since 2015, nearly a thousand children aged 13 have been arrested for crimes including aggravated vehicle-taking, theft of a vehicle, taking a vehicle without consent, theft from a vehicle and interfering with a vehicle.
Sir David said: ‘What we see is some examples of tasking, on things like WhatsApp, where people would be tasking young people or other groups to go and steal.
‘It has some similar features to county lines: there was a suggestion that people would be rewarded with money for cars and there are examples where people were offered money to supplement food, shopping bills and stuff in the same way that children can be groomed around county lines.’
Figures from 40 forces across England and Wales show that 941 suspects aged 13 and 327 12-year-olds were investigated for the offences from 2015-2019.
At least 76 children aged ten and 138 11-year-olds were suspected of carrying out the crimes. In some cases, thieves as young as six have been caught interfering with a vehicle or stealing from a car.
In total, there were 194 records relating to youngsters under the age of ten suspected of breaking into a vehicle across 15 force areas.
Figures from 40 forces across England and Wales show that 941 suspects aged 13 and 327 12-year-olds were investigated for the offences from 2015-2019
The numbers were even higher among older children.
Since 2015, 2,179 teenagers aged 14 and 3,667 15-year-olds have been held on suspicion of committing car crime across the UK. The figures show that 15,904 youths aged 15 and below have been investigated for vehicle offences between 2015 and 2019. In 2019 alone, 6,756 car crimes were committed by teenagers aged 18 and below.
London, which is the nation’s car theft capital, had the highest rate of youth involvement with 7,847 suspects aged 11-15 and a total of 9,476 crimes committed by teenagers between 2015-2019. West Yorkshire came next with 3,349 crimes committed by those aged 18 and below over the period.
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