Women still commit fewer crimes than men in Britain, but they are rapidly catching up in this traditionally male dominated field as well. According to figures recently published by the Youth Justice Board (YJB), around 60,000 crimes in the country last year were committed by the female sex.
Crimes by women havs seen a 25 per cent rise in the last three years, while those by men have fallen by two per cent during the same period.
The most popular crimes among women are theft, violent assaults, criminal damage and misbehaving in public. Though small cheese compared to murders and rapes at which men are still way ahead, they are still a worrying trend. ‘Girl gangs’ are growing across the land. Around 20,000 girls were arrested for theft last year, and another 16,000 for violent attacks. About 6000 committed ‘public order’ crimes, and another 1000 for drug related illegalities.
The YJB report cites the case of a girl in Harrow, north-west London, living in mortal fear of a girl gang that had already beaten her up and was trying to drive her out of the city. It refers to a violent brawl that erupted between rival girl gangs wielding snooker balls in socks in the unlikely setting of Shoreham railway station in West Sussex. It mentions an incident in Cheshire, where a former policewoman was punched in the face by a teenage girl .
Drink seems to have played a key role in pushing the figures of minor crimes by women. Recent police figures suggested that 50 per cent more women were arrested in 2007-08 for being drunk and disorderly than five years ago. As many as 29 per cent of all schoolgirls admit to binge-drinking, a higher figure than for schoolboys.
Academic Elaine Arnull of London's South Bank University, who prepared a report on the subject for the YJB, said while drink could be blamed, the increase in criminal offences by women could also be due to changes in the way society deals with violence. “The bigger picture is that behaviour is changing and there is a link between girls using alcohol and violence. But it is not the dramatic change the figures might suggest.”