Prison reform charity the Howard League has hailed the seventh consecutive year in which arrests of children have dropped across England and Wales, but warned that there is still more work to do.
A Freedom of Information request by the charity to Lancashire Constabulary shows 1,893 children were arrested in the county in 2017.
This represents a decrease of 32 per cent on 2016, and it is 81 per cent fewer than in 2010.
Across England and Wales, 79,000 children were arrested last year – 68 per cent fewer than the 246,000 arrested in 2010.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is the seventh year in a row that we have seen a significant reduction in the number of child arrests.
“It is a phenomenal achievement by the police and the Howard League, and it means that tens of thousands of children will have a brighter future without their life chances being blighted by unnecessary police contact and criminal records.
“Police forces across England and Wales have adopted a positive approach that will make our communities safer, and the Howard League is proud to have played its part in that transformation.
“We have come a long way, but there is still more work to do. We have launched a programme to end the criminalisation of children in residential care, and our research also highlights the need for better understanding of child criminal exploitation.
“Children who have been trafficked to commit crime should be seen as victims first and foremost.”
The Howard League’s report shows that across England and Wales 12,495 arrests of girls were recorded in 2017. Arrests of girls have reduced at a faster rate than arrests of boys since 2010.
Arrests of primary school-age children have also been reduced – there were 616 arrests of 10- and 11-year-olds in 2017, 12 per cent fewer than in the previous year.
The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for children and young people, Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: "The continued drop in child arrests across the country is welcome. While there will always be situations in which arrest is the best option to keep the public safe, police forces are continuing to work to decrease this wherever possible.
"We are increasingly working with other agencies to ensure that vulnerable children being exploited receive the right support and are treated as victims, not criminals."
A Home Office spokesman said: "Our new Serious Violence Strategy puts a stronger focus on steering young people away from violence, helping them to change their behaviour and actions before they reach the stage where they are at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
"Of course this has to be balanced with ensuring a strong law enforcement response where necessary, and it is appropriate that decisions around when to arrest someone should sit with the police.”