Younger siblings of known teen criminals in Leeds are being targeted by law enforcers in a pioneering bid to stop burglaries becoming a family business.
Little brothers and sisters of offenders are being spoken to by officials before they have committed a crime to discourage them from following suit.
It comes on the back of research indicating that many of the city’s persistent burglars started out by learning their trade from older siblings.
Chief Supt Dave Oldroyd, who leads work on burglary for police in Leeds, said: “The research is saying that we need to target these younger siblings much earlier with a view to breaking the cycle.”
Leeds has historically had among the worst burglary rates in the country.
In 2010 the city’s authorities were given a ‘red flag’ by the Audit Commission because the problem was so acute.
Since then £1.2million has been pumped into trying to combat the problem.
Research has been commissioned with academics from Huddersfield University to find out why Leeds has suffered.
Chief Supt Oldroyd said: “It’s quite early days but there is an indication that young people are getting into burglary in this city early because there’s almost a culture here and it becomes a crime of choice.
“If you have three brothers and sisters in a family and eldest brother starts getting into burglary and mum and dad haven’t got control or aren’t doing anything about it, it can look like fun.
“The younger ones may not see the down side of getting locked up, only that their sibling’s got a bit of money or even, in some circumstances, kudos or status among their peers. Then of course there’s a danger that they will follow in their footsteps.”
Leeds has secured up to £8million over the next three years for a major programme called Families First – to work with families to reduce offending and anti-social behaviour and improve school attendance – leading to a change in approach to dealing with young offenders.
Insp Simon Jessop, who leads the Leeds district burglary team, said: “In the past, a young offender might just get a reprimand at the first offence.
“Youth offending services are now involved from the start, talking to the family. Kids go from zero to habitual burglars within 12 months. If you don’t catch them early, you have missed the boat.”