DETECTIVES are investigating a spate of vandalism, graffiti and arson believed to have been committed by children as young as 13.
All of the 12 offences were committed in St Helier, according to the States police, with half allegedly carried out by the teenagers in a single day.
A break-in, vandalism and suspected arson attack at d’Auvergne School, small fires in public toilets and a serious blaze at the former South Hill Planning offices – which resulted in four fire engines, 18 firefighters and a command support unit being called out – are now all under investigation.
A number of teenagers have been arrested and released on bail pending further inquiries.
Chief Inspector Craig Jackson moved to reassure the public that the inquiry was a “focus” for officers and that “preventative measures” were now in force to avoid harm to Islanders.
Speaking to the JEP, he said: “We have identified these individuals, but this is an active investigation.
“We have chosen bail options to minimise them being able to go to these locations.
“We are dealing with these reported crimes, and it is a focus. These are being investigated by our criminal investigations department.
“If Islanders do see anything suspicious, even if it’s young people, they are to report it by the usual channels directly to the police.”
He added that the force was working in partnership with “key stakeholders”, such as the Fire and Rescue Service and Youth Service, on “preventative measures” such as installing fire alarms in public toilet blocks and increasing high-visibility patrols in areas which could be targeted.
“Part of the police’s job is not only to respond to crimes but to prevent them taking place, and that is what we’ve sought to do with arrests and the use of bail legislation to minimise their occurrence,” he said.
However, he added that “we have a really safe Island” which saw an overall decrease in youth crime last year.
“We know the young people we need to focus on, and it is a small cohort in the grand scheme of things,” he continued.
St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said he was in regular communication with the police chief and honorary police about issues including the recent fires and vandalism.
He said that he would continue to raise the matter with the police and the Home Affairs Minister, saying: “I know these investigations take time, but I am aware that work is ongoing.”
He added: “There is general agreement that we need a new youth centre, particularly in the centre of town, as well as other facilities.”
Another concern, he said, was graffiti: “This has worsened recently. It certainly needs to be dealt with as soon as it appears, otherwise there are some urban areas where it’s everywhere. We shouldn’t accept it.
“I raised the issue with the [previous] Infrastructure Minister, but it is certainly something I’ll be taking forward.”