CHILDREN as young as eight are being groomed by "Fagins" to commit break and enters and other crimes across the city, Griffith's most senior cop has revealed.
Griffith LAC commander Michael Rowan told a community safety precinct meeting on Tuesday the "Fagins" named after the character in Oliver who lures disadvantaged children into a life of crime were recruiting underage cleanskins to avoid the full force of the law.
First-time offenders under the age of 18 are handed only a caution under the Young Offenders Act, meaning a host of offences during the recent crime wave have gone unpunished.
"It's quite clear that a number of our young offenders are being trained by others," Superintendent Rowan said.
"A lot of this happens through association where you have an 18-year-old who's been through the mix and he will teach 13 or 14 year olds how to commit offences.
"It's not like they're going into schoolyards or out to Pioneer and picking up individuals, it's more a case of people in their peer group it's the nature of the beast."
Superintendent Rowan made the comments at the meeting in response to calls to toughen up the Young Offenders Act.
But he said while it could often be used as a loophole by kid crooks, the "vast majority" of young offenders dealt with under the Act did not reoffend.
Griffith PCYC manager Kym Neal said adults grooming children to commit crime was a "sad reality" in the city.
"Yes, it's happening and yes, it's widespread," Mrs Neal said.
"They're normally kids who they're related to or who are in the same group or live in the same neighbourhood."
She said she was currently working with kids as young as eight who had learnt the ropes from older offenders.
More than 30 break and enters on homes were reported across Griffith in December and January, while 54 thefts from motor vehicles were reported in the same period.
Cr Paul Rossetto, who raised the issue of young offenders at the meeting, said adults caught committing crime with children and teens should be "doubly punished".
"We're hearing of juveniles under 10 committing break and enters and obviously they are carted there by adults," Cr Rossetto said.
"The penalty for these people should be doubled - not only are they committing crime but they're leading young people astray."
*** Parents should shoulder responsibility for kid crooks, editorial: page 6