Offenders aged 14 to 17 lead surge in violent crime

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Young Victorians are committing more violent and serious crimes than previously recorded, and the trend is being driven by offenders aged 14 to 17, state crime statistics released on Thursday reveal.

Among that age group, there was a more than 26 per cent increase in the 12 months to June. This included 3758 assaults, more than 1900 burglaries and 1495 car thefts.

Shoplifting committed by offenders of all age groups represented the biggest increase in offences.

There was also a 16 per cent spike in crime overall among that age group year-on-year, which included more than 944 burglaries – up from 279 pre-pandemic.

Police also expressed concern for the 10 to 13-year-old age group where there was a 38 per cent jump in serious crimes on pre-pandemic levels. The new data shows they committed 3187 serious offences, which included 346 burglaries.

Across both age groups, the number of crimes jumped by more than 3000 to 14,898 in 12 months, the highest overall total in the past decade.

This increase in offences was reflected across all age groups, with a total of 506,408 crimes committed in the year to June – an increase of 7.9 per cent from the year prior.

Victoria Police’s Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson told 3AW that particularly concerning was the notable increase in incidences involving violence aggravated burglaries and car thefts among young people.

He said police were continuing to apply “extreme pressure” to their most serious and violent youth offenders, decreasing the number of known youth gang members in Victoria by almost 20 per cent in three years.

“However, there remains a core group of around 290 recidivist youth offenders who are the main challenge,” Paterson said in a statement.

Police say this marked a shift from previous low-level offending for this age group, including graffiti and shop theft.

Paterson said that while youth crime in Victoria had increased from the peak pandemic years, the overall crime rate had remained 1.4 per cent below pre-COVID levels.

“When factoring in population growth, overall crime is at its second-lowest levels in the past decade – only beaten by the twelve months to June 2022, which were heavily impacted by COVID restrictions,” he said.

“While this is positive, there are a number of areas of concern that Victoria Police will continue to focus on, including youth crime, home burglaries, car thefts, and firearm-related violence.”

Crime was up across all categories over the 12 months to June, except offences introduced by the chief health officer during the pandemic.

Shoplifting committed by offenders of all age groups represented the biggest increase in offences, which police say may be due to current cost-of-living pressures. Liquor, groceries and clothes were among the most common items stolen.

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