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LCQ13: Curbing youth committing offences
     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Tang Fei and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Tang Ping-keung, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
     It has been reported that the rule of law awareness among young people has weakened after the riots in 2019, and there is a rising trend in the number of cases involving youths committing criminal offences (e.g. criminal damage, illegal debt collection activities). In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of young people aged 21 or below who were arrested for alleged criminal offences and who were committed to correctional facilities, in each of the past five years, together with a breakdown by the age group to which they belonged (each group covering three years of age) and the type of offence involved;
(2) among the offences mentioned in (1), of the three types of offences which registered the biggest increase in their numbers, and whether it has studied the causes for the relatively higher increase in the number of such offences;
(3) whether the authorities have formulated separate measures targeting young people in each age group and those who have committed various types of criminal offences respectively, so as to prevent them from committing offences or committing offences again; and
(4) of the specific details regarding the co-operation between the Police and schools (including law-abiding education, law and order in the vicinity of campuses, as well as tripartite co-operation among homes, schools and the Police) in the past five years?
     Fostering and strengthening the law-abiding awareness of young people is the key to maintaining prosperity and stability of our society. The Government have all along attached great importance to the prevention of youth crime and worked for instilling anti-crime and law-abiding awareness in young people through diversified approach of multi-agency co-operation.
     Our reply to Member's questions is as follows:
(1) and (2) The numbers of young people arrested by the Police for criminal offences in the past five years, broken down by major types of offences and age at arrest are at Annex 1. The numbers of young persons in custody (PICs) admitted to correctional institutions in the past five years, broken down by major types of offences and age at admission are at Annex 2. The Police do not maintain a breakdown of figures by age group each covering three years.
     The three types of crime that registered the biggest increase between January and October 2022 in terms of number of young people arrested when compared with that of the same period in 2018 were deception (number of arrestees increased by 139 per cent), criminal damage (number of arrestees increased by 64 per cent) and serious drug offences (number of arrestees increased by 44 per cent).
     The Police have been closely monitoring the trend of young people committing criminal offences, and have noticed that young people might be lured into engaging in illegal activities by lawbreakers under peer influence or in the hope of earning "quick-cash". Such activities include drug trafficking or abuse, illegal debt collection and lending bank accounts to others for illicit purposes. The Police will continue to actively promote anti-crime messages to young people and step up intelligence-led enforcement actions, especially against lawbreakers who exploit young people to commit crimes on their behalf.
(3) and (4) As regards prevention of youth crime and recidivism, the Police have all along adopted the approach of multi-agency co-operation, maintaining close co-operation and communication with the Education Bureau (EDB), sponsoring bodies, schools, principals, teachers, parent-teacher associations and social welfare organisations. Different stakeholders are encouraged to make concerted efforts to foster the law-abiding awareness of young people and strengthen the work in prevention of youth crime.
     The Police have implemented the "Police School Liaison Programme" since 1974 to foster on all fronts the anti-crime awareness of young people through activities such as conducting regular school visits, student interviews, talks and group discussions, continuously producing videos, micro movies and educational resources on crime prevention and organising competitions, large scale thematic promotion and educational activities.
     In addition, the age threshold for joining the Junior Police Call (JPC) has been lowered from nine to six years old since 2018, with a view to instilling crime prevention and law abiding awareness in young people at an earlier stage. The JPC School Clubs provide diversified activities and training to help children and young people develop law-abiding awareness as early as possible.
     As regards the recruitment of young people by triad groups to commit crimes, apart from increasing patrols and enforcement actions in the vicinity of schools, the Police also join hands with other law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organisations from time to time to get in touch with "young night drifters" at places where they frequently visit, providing appropriate follow up support to the young people concerned to prevent them from being lured by lawbreakers, leading them to go astray.
     In addition, through Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme, police officers at the rank of Superintendent or above exercise discretion in issuing cautions to the arrested young people under the age of 18 who involved in minor crimes in place of criminal prosecution to provide young people whose offences are minor in nature with opportunities for rehabilitation through corrective supervision. With the consent of the parents or guardians of the arrested young people under the age of 18, the Police will also refer them to the "Community Support Service Scheme" funded by the Social Welfare Department to provide them with supporting services, so as to help them re-integrate into the society and reduce their likelihood of recidivism.
     As for the rehabilitation of young PICs, the Correctional Services Department (CSD) is committed to providing appropriate rehabilitation programmes for young PICs to facilitate their rehabilitation and re-integration into society smoothly after release. In addition to imprisonment imposed by the court on young offenders, the CSD runs four rehabilitative programmes under the law, namely the Drug Addiction Treatment Centre Programme for drug addicts, the Training Centre Programme and the Rehabilitation Centre Programme for young PICs between the age of 14 and 20, as well as the Detention Centre Programme for young PICs between the age of 14 and 24. These programmes aim at providing appropriate treatment, counselling, education and training for young PICs who have been sentenced to correctional institutions by the court, and arranging statutory supervision for them upon their release, thereby helping them re-integrate into the society.
     In recent years, quite a number of radical persons involved in serious offences have been admitted to correctional institutions. Having regard to their rehabilitation needs, the CSD has launched the "Project PATH". Based on three major rehabilitation directions, namely understanding Chinese history and national education, psychological reconstruction and re-establishment of values, and life planning and rebuilding of family relationships, the CSD strives to assist young PICs who have committed crimes due to radical thoughts to rebuild positive values and face positively the challenges ahead, thereby breaking the cycle of crime and enabling them to re-integrate into society. The key rehabilitation programmes under the Project PATH are tabulated in Annex 3.
     The EDB attaches great importance to values education (including anti-drug education, Constitution of the People's Republic of China (Constitution), Basic Law and national security education). "Law abidingness" is one of the priority values which serve as the direction for promoting values education in schools. The EDB has been adopting a "multi-pronged and co-ordinated" approach to implement national security education and strengthen anti-drug education as well as Constitution and Basic Law education in schools, with a view to cultivating students' awareness of law abidingness and their concept of the rule of law, and to fulfill their civic responsibilities. Relevant learning elements have been embedded in the subjects such as General Studies, Citizenship, Economics and Society, Chinese History, and Citizenship and Social Development, which are taught by teachers in the classroom.
     Various sectors of the community should collaborate to prevent young people from falling into the abyss of delinquency. They should take the roles of caring people and companions when noticing that young people are on the verge of infringing the law.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:30
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