Sunday, May 11, 2008

Girl gangs rise as new urban vandals

THE number of underage girls linked to crime has soared by 58 per cent in the past decade, with new statistics revealing unprecedented numbers of girls suspected of assault, vandalism and shoplifting.

Startling new figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that girls are increasingly coming under police scrutiny in connection with a range of crimes.

There were 3622 girls aged 10 to 17 allegedly involved in criminal incidents in 1998 - a figure which rose to 5724 last year.

And the past 10 years have seen significant average annual increases in the number of girls suspected of malicious damage to property (8.5 per cent), disorderly conduct (7.6 per cent), shoplifting (5.9 per cent) and assault (5.5 per cent).

It's a trend also evident in the UK, where statistics show offences committed by girls between 10 and 17 have jumped 25 per cent in three years.

Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg blamed the phenomenon on "appalling parenting", saying adults were becoming less and less involved in young people's lives.

"This is the most tribal generation of young women I've ever seen," he said.

"Because there are no adults around, the kids basically run themselves."

And in parts of Sydney, they are running wild.

In inner-city Glebe, residents and business owners say assaults, robberies and vandalism are out of control - and that a gang of teenage girls is outdoing the boys.

One local businessman said it was "definitely the girls" who were behind a spate of crimes in the area.

"They break windows, mug people," he said. "They're out of control."

A string of driver bashings and thefts has prompted Domino's Pizza to declare certain parts of Glebe a no-go zone for its terrified drivers.

Leichhardt police Inspector Ken Blackett said there had recently been "a significant increase in the number of assaults by girls".

"They are just far more brazen, they're just not afraid," he said.

Dr Carr-Gregg said busy parents were now "outsourcing" the parenting of their children to teenaged peers.

"What we have is a generation which is raised in an environment where there are no limits, no boundaries, no moral compass," he said.

Teens saw anti-social behaviour as the way to win notoriety and approval from their peers, Dr Carr-Gregg said.

To progress up the hierarchy the girls had to "out-bloke the blokes ... drink and take drugs and have sex and commit crime".

Dr Carr-Gregg said inappropriate role models offered by TV and music videos fuelled the perception that "guys are attracted to tough chicks".

He urged parents, schools and the community to take responsibility.


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