TEENAGE GIRLS IN SHOCKING EPIDEMIC OF CRIME; Terrifying Rise of the Girl Gangs Who Plague Our Streets Case Study

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TEENAGE girls are committing a soaring number of crimes, according to a disturbing new survey.

Delinquency among girls has increased so dramatically that young women are now almost as likely as young men to break the law.

Last night, critics blamed the rise of 'ladette culture' for encouraging young women to take so- called 'girl power' to new extremes.

Victim support groups claimed youth crime strategies were too heavily skewed towards teenage boys and had to be radically reviewed to tackle girl gangs.

The figures, from the Scottish Crime Survey 2000, show one in three youngsters breaks the law, from fare-dodging and pilfering to brawling and carrying knives. In 1993, teenage boys were a third more likely than girls to break the law.

But delinquent behaviour is now almost as common among young females as young males, with nearly double the number of girls admitting to breaking the law in 2000 than in 1993.

In the survey, carried out for the Scottish Executive, 32 per cent of schoolgirls between the age of 12 and 15 said they had either stolen or vandalised property, dodged fares, been involved in a fight, taken drugs or been guilty of fireraising recently ? compared with just 17 per cent in 1993.

The survey describes the increase as 'dramatic.' The real scale of the problem is likely to be even worse, since the 1993 statistics covered offences carried out in the previous year, while the most recent figures cover only offences committed 'since the last school holidays'.

Norman Brennan, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: ' These figures are very worrying.

'Unfortunately, girls are now behaving as badly as boys. It's tomboy culture ? girls are hanging out more with boys and feel they have to beat them at their own game.' The statistics show that in 1993 boys were 11 per cent more likely than girls to commit petty offences. The gap has narrowed dramatically and is now 4 per cent.

About one-fifth of those admitting to breaking the law had been involved in a fight with a nonfamilymember, while 15 per cent confessed to dodging fares, 9 per cent to stealing and 8 per cent to deliberately damaging property.

The survey also reveals youngsters are spending more and more time outwith parental supervision.

About 80 per cent of 12-to-15-year- olds go out in the evening without their parents at least once a week, 26 per cent three or four times a week and 16 per cent every night. Significantly, girls were far more likely than boys to say they were 'often' or 'nearly always' bored.

Labour MSP Paul Martin, who has been leading a campaign against youth offending in his Glasgow Springburn constituency, said: 'The feedback I am getting from people in my area is that the girls are just as bad as the boys.

'There is a high number of females involved in these types of activities.

'One problem is that youth diversion projects are far more likely to look at providing facilities for boys, such as football pitches, and don't look at facilities specifically for girls. …