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Girl crime surges by a quarter

By Andrew Hough

LONDON (Reuters) - Crime committed by girls has increased by more than a quarter over the past three years, government figures revealed on Thursday.

The Youth Justice Board (YJB), which oversees juvenile offenders in England and Wales, said it has commissioned a study to investigate the reasons.

Commentators ascribed the increase partly to a rise in the total number of girls aged under 17 and partly to the police being more willing to take action against girls accused of crimes such as school fights.

Boys still commit most youth crime but the YJB said offences by males fell two percent over the same period.

The YJB figures came as the government announced that the opinions of children aged under 16 would be for the first time included in its British Crime Survey (BCS).

A separate study also revealed on Thursday that one in eight young people aged 11-16 were victims of "hot pocket theft" of electronic items including MP3 players, iPods and mobile phones.

The government said it wants to highlight the link between street robbery and young people carrying valuable equipment.

In its annual Workload Data research, the YJB reported that since 2006 young females -- some as young as 10 -- committed almost 60,000 crimes including theft, criminal damage, violent attacks, criminal damage and public order crimes.

This was a 25 percent increase from 2003/2004, when more than 47,000 offences by girls were committed.

The number of crimes by boys fell to 236,000 over the same period, compared with 240,000 three years earlier.

Overall offences increased from almost 288,000 in 2003/04 to more than 301,800 over 2005/06. Last year they fell again to more than 295,000.

The figures cover offences that brought criminal charges, a fixed-penalty notice, a police caution, or a formal warning.

Research from the Design Council meanwhile, revealed that one in three of the young "hot product" victims were listening to music on headphones, talking, texting or playing on a games console when their property was snatched.

The study was unveiled by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith who also announced the new crime survey guidelines.

She said while it would mean a spike in the amount of crimes reported, involving young people in the BCS would provide a better understanding of how crime affected them.

"I want to ensure that young people are offered as much protection from crime as possible, and receive support if they do become victims, whilst also tackling offending vigorously," she said in a statement.

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, welcomed the new BCS measures but added in a statement: "The government's reliance on the BCS measure has ignored crimes against children for years, despite a steep rise in youth violence."

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