Zed Stott, manager of the Alliance in Sand Street, said teenagers running through the store, damaging products and shoplifting had become an increasing problem over the past six months.
Figures supplied by the States police show that 282 arrests of under-18s were made last year – double the number for 2019. This compares to 172 in 2018 and 242 in 2017. For each year of the past decade, fewer than ten young offenders have been responsible for between 14% and 20% of all recorded youth crime.
Making reference to one incident which occurred at his store, Mr Stott said: ‘These two [teenage] girls got in upstairs and emptied bottles of washing-up liquid over the floor and stairs. On the way out, they set off a fire alarm.
‘The police said they were laughing and joking when they were put in the police car. Kids have so many rights. They are almost untouchable.’
He added: ‘There’s shoplifting and there’s anti-social behaviour. Last week a fight started outside and came into the store.
‘It’s always been an issue but it’s got worse over the past six months, and I can only see it getting worse still.’
In February, HSBC was forced to close the cash-machine lobby in its Halkett Street branch after hours owing to anti-social behaviour and littering by teenagers who were using it as somewhere to hang out.
One month later, four youths were arrested by armed police following an alleged assault near Marks and Spencer in King Street. One of those accused of being involved was arrested on suspicion of carrying a knife.
Around the same time, a director of the Channel Islands’ largest retail group, SandpiperCI, called on the government to be tougher on a number of teenagers who were entering their town stores, after a shop manager was allegedly assaulted in his office.
A 14-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of grave and criminal assault and two others, aged 12 and 14, were arrested on suspicion of affray. There were also reports of vandalism by young people at SandpiperCI’s Liberty Wharf premises.
St Helier town centre manager Connor Burgher said that crime levels in the area were generally low but added: ‘There are issues around the police not actually being able to do that much about it.
‘But I know they’re working on tackling it and I’ve definitely noticed an increased police presence since the start of the summer holidays.’
Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida admitted there was no easy solution to tackling youth crime but said the States police had previously run a successful campaign targeted at reducing repeat offenders by building relationships between them and social workers.
He said: ‘This extremely manpower-heavy approach had excellent results, with a decrease in offending and increase in school attendance for those involved.
‘At the same time, the States of Jersey Police was trying to minimise the impact on the many victims of these crimes by keeping a closer control on the small number of repeat offenders – again, successfully but with a huge cost in time.’
He added: ‘The Assembly has already decided to provide the offenders with as much help as possible, as part of our “Putting Children First” policy. It will be up to the whole Assembly how much protection they want to afford the victims, most of whom are also children.’
A States police spokesperson added: ‘Police will investigate and gather evidence on crimes regardless of the perpetrator’s age, and thereafter present the case to the Island’s authorities for a decision as to whether or not a prosecution will be sought.
‘If a person is subsequently found guilty, it is the Centenier or Magistrate that decides on the level of sanction. The police have no input on this element of the criminal justice process.’