DOZENS of children were arrested in West Yorkshire for suspected gun crimes last year, new figures have revealed.
In total, 15 of the 45 children arrested for suspected firearms offences in the county were charged in 2015, compared with nine in 2014 and 10 in 2013.
Across the country, more than 1,500 child arrests for alleged firearm offences were carried out by police between 2013 and January 2016, with the number soaring by 20 per cent last year, figures released by forces under the Freedom of Information Act showed.
The number of arrests in West Yorkshire last year was down almost a fifth from 2014, when 55 children were arrested, but remains higher than in 2013 when 38 children were arrested. There were also three arrests in January 2016.
A force spokesman said: “Unfortunately, West Yorkshire Police is unable to provide a full description of the offence as this has been held for the purpose of an investigation and disclosure of the full details could lead to the identification of individuals concerned.”
Across Yorkshire, the youngest child charged was just 13 years old. He was charged alongside three 17-year-old boys by Humberside Police with possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Shane Fenton, founder of Leeds youth charity Speak to the Streets, which provides alternatives to gang activity as a way of life, said the figures should be treated with caution.
“We don’t know how many of these children had imitation or BB guns, not hardened criminals who would shoot someone without a second thought,” he said. “Some of the kids want the bravado of having a pretend gun. They are growing up with television and advertising portraying guns as glamorous. These images have an affect on impressionable minds and we should be doing more to tackle them.”