Northamptonshire Police arrested children 42 times a week on average last year, new figures have revealed.
New research by the Howard League for Penal Reform charity shows officers made 2,177 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under during 2011.
However, the figures represent a fall of 29 per cent since 2008, when 3,069 were recorded.
Northamptonshire Police told the Howard League that the fall “is no doubt as a result of us focusing on improving trust and confidence, empowering officers to use their professional judgement and developing restorative justice within the county”.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is very pleasing to see that Northamptonshire Police is arresting fewer children than it has in the past. I hope this trend continues.
“Children who get into trouble are more often than not just being challenging teenagers and how we respond to this nuisance behaviour could make a difference for the rest of their lives. An arrest can blight a life and lead to a criminal record for just being naughty. The positive change in policing children will release resources to deal with real crimes.
“Only a handful of children are involved in more serious incidents and they usually suffer from neglect, abuse or mental health issues. A commitment to public safety means treating them as vulnerable children and making sure they get the help they need to mature into law-abiding citizens.
“Under the last government, police success was measured by the number of arrests and children proved a seductive way to make up the numbers. The fact that the number of child arrests has fallen by a third since 2008 is a testament to a change of culture, more focused on public safety than targets.”
Across England and Wales, police made more than 209,000 arrests of boys and girls aged 17 and under last year. This number includes 2,117 arrests of children who were aged 10 or 11, meaning that on average six primary school children were arrested every day.
More than one million child arrests have been made in England and Wales since 2008, but the figures show a downward trend. The number of arrests nationwide fell by a third between 2008 and 2011.
Girls account for about a fifth of arrests each year, 207,808 between 2008 and 2011. However, 24,055 fewer girls were arrested in 2011 than in 2008 – a welcome fall of 38 per cent.
The campaign’s success and the way forward will be discussed at the Howard League’s Policing and Children Conference in Birmingham on Thursday, December 6.
Child arrest figures for Northamptonshire: