Crime study highlights teenage knife carrying [ BBCNewsUK, by Dominis Casciani, 19/5/2011]

Thirteen per cent of 13 to 15-year-olds know someone who has carried a knife for protection, a survey has suggested.

The research estimates that overall 1% of those in the age group carried a knife between 2009 and 2010 – lower than other estimates.

The figures for England and Wales suggest a fifth of 10 to 15-year-olds were bullied in the last year.

The statistics are an attempt to better understand the effects of crime on children and how safe they feel.

The report focuses on a wide range of questions relating to young people’s perceptions of crime and personal safety, rather than the number of them who have actually been victims.

The results are drawn from the 2009-2010 British Crime Survey, a rolling programme of interviews designed to record experiences of crime beyond incidents reported to the police. Some 3,700 children were interviewed.

According to the figures on knives, almost 70% of those aged between 13 and 15 said that carrying a knife meant they would be more likely to be stabbed themselves.

However, the older the children were, the less likely they were to strongly agree that such a risk existed.

Nasty texts

There have been previous attempts to work out how many young people carry a weapon.

A survey by the Youth Justice Board published in 2009 estimated that 23% of young people said they had carried a knife in the previous year.

Typically they admitted to carrying a pen knife – and a third said it was nothing to do with protection. A survey by BBC Radio 1 in 2009 found that 9% of respondents said they carried a knife for protection.

On bullying, boys aged between 10 and 12 were more likely to have experienced bullying than other groups.

Some 6% of children said they had been victims of cyber-bullying – such as nasty texts or postings on websites – in the last year. Girls were more likely to have been cyber-bullied than boys.

Eight out of 10 of those surveyed said they hung around with friends in public spaces – but just over a third said that there was a problem with teenagers hanging around in their neighbourhood.

Overall, the figures suggest that children are more likely than adults to think that there is a problem with teenagers hanging around.

The figures also reveal that children trust the police far more than adults.

According to the survey 87% agreed that “the police would help if you need them”. When asked a similar question, only 50% of adults agreed that police could be relied on to help.

The majority of young people also agreed that police were friendly and treated people fairly “whatever their skin colour or religion”.

These latest figures come almost a year after the Home Office’s first experimental statistics illustrated the problems with quantifying crime affecting children.

That earlier report suggested that up to a quarter of children could be victims of crime – but it stressed that defining a crime involving children was very difficult.

In one example, using the strictest legal definitions, squabbling siblings smashing each other’s toys could be classed as crime – but the children themselves would not consider themselves a victim.