Arrests of girls by Lancashire Police have fallen by more than half in three years, according to a new study.
Lancashire officers made 891 arrests of girls aged 17 and younger during 2011, compared to 2,034 in 2008 – a 56 per cent reduction.
It comes after the Howard League for Penal Reform launched a campaign aimed at keeping as children out of the criminal justice system.
And today, campaign bosses praised the Lancashire force.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is encouraging to see that Lancashire Police are making fewer arrests of girls than they were in 2008, thanks in part to our effective campaigning.
“A significant fall in the number of children entering the justice system is good news for everyone striving to reduce crime and saves the taxpayer untold millions.
“Our evidence shows that the police were arresting girls completely unnecessarily when they were out partying, often with the mistaken intention of protecting them.
“Now the police are handing out flip-flops and helping the girls home, a much more sensible response.
“There are a very few girls who have welfare needs such as poverty and substance misuse, or are victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
“Rather than being criminalised, these girls need protection from serious harm and support to help them mature into law-abiding citizens.
“The challenge for police services now is to maintain this trend of arresting fewer children.
“Only last week the Commons Justice Committee reported that too many children were being criminalised for trivial incidents, so it is remarkable that, although only 50 girls in the whole country are considered to have committed such serious crimes to merit custody, police carried out more than 34,000 arrests during 2011. Reducing the number of arrests still further would release resources to deal with real crimes.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “Not only has there been a reduction in the number of girls arrested, overall there has been a reduction in the number of people arrested.
“This is because that there are other ways of dealing with people and our approach now is very much victim focused.
“We will use outcomes like restorative justice and cautions to ensure we deal with people in the most appropriate way.
“When dealing with young people, it is also important that we do not criminalise them unnecessarily and if there are other ways of dealing with them then we should do.
“Let me clear though, if people commit offences that warrant arrest then they will be arrested.”
Police recorded more than 34,000 arrests in 2011, compared with more than 62,000 in 2008.