There was a rise in the number of thefts committed by children across the Dyfed-Powys and North Wales Police force areas last year, new figures show.
The latest Youth Justice Statistics show 53 theft offences recorded by Dyfed-Powys Police were committed by children aged 10 to 17 in the year to March 2023 – up from 15 the year before. 101 were recorded by North Wales Police – up from 38 the year before.
It follows trends across England and Wales where the number of theft and handling stolen goods offences committed by young people jumped 23 per cent from 2,200 in 2021-22 to 2,700 crimes last year.
However, Dr Tim Bateman, chair of the National Association for Youth Justice, said it was important to highlight offences of theft and handling stolen goods are "towards the lower end of seriousness".
"While we should not be complacent about any rise, it is encouraging that more serious offences, such as robbery and violence have continued to fall over the past year," he added.
Overall, young people committed 351 crimes in Dyfed-Powys last year. It marked a 67 per cent decline in offences by the cohort over the past decade.
In north Wales, young people committed 688 crimes - a 47 per cent decline. The highest proportion of recorded crimes last year were categorised as violence against the person (31 per cent in Dyfed-Powys and 28 per cent in north Wales) – which ranges from minor offences such as harassment to serious offences like murder.
A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board said: "The earlier we intervene to support children who are vulnerable, the more likely they will go on to live constructive lives.
They added: "This will result in less crime, fewer victims, and safer communities."
Commenting on the figures, YJB chair Keith Fraser said black children and those with mixed ethnicity continue to be over-represented across most stages of the youth justice system.
He added there have been "promising reductions" in the proportions of black children across several areas including arrests, youth cautions, first time entrants, sentencing and children in custody.
In Dyfed-Powys, a total of 130 children were cautioned or sentenced in 2022-23. Of those with a known ethnicity, two per cent were black and two per cent were mixed.
In north Wales, 199 children were cautioned or sentenced. Of those with a known ethnicity, four per cent were mixed.
Dr Bateman said: The increasing overrepresentation of black and other minoritised children within the youth justice system over the past decade is deeply disturbing and sits in stark contrast to other improvements in the treatment of children in trouble with the law."
He added the data suggests white children are more likely to be diverted from the criminal justice system than their minority counterparts.
He called for greater transparency in the decision-making process as to which children are cautioned or prosecuted, and which are not.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the number of children entering the criminal justice system has fallen by 72 per cent since 2012 with an even greater reduction in those receiving a caution or sentence.
They added: "At the same time, the proportion of arrested children who are black has fallen for a third consecutive year.
"We’re doing more than ever to divert ethnic minority youngsters away from crime as well as tackling disparities in the system – for example by increasing diversity in the judiciary."