|The Lancashire Evening Post, Monday, 26th June 2006|
Vandals as young as eight are causing £750,000 worth of damage in Preston each year.
In one of the latest attacks, £15,000 of damage was caused to CCTV cameras at Mears Carpets in Longridge Road, Ribbleton.
Police have launched an operation to curb a 10% rise in vandalism that has seen 1,300 incidents since the start of April – around 15 criminal damage offences a day.
Ch Insp James Lee, from Preston police, said officers were now treating criminal damage as seriously as domestic burglaries.
He said: "From meetings with the public, we know criminal damage is a major concern and it is now one of our main targets.
"Over the past six months there has been a significant rise in criminal damage across Fulwood and Lea with Ribbleton and the Larches estate being hotspots.
"We need the public to help in our battle against graffiti and criminal damage by reporting who are responsible.
"We now have criminal damage co-ordinators who review cases and look at CCTV from shops and business premises.
"We are detecting around 30% of all criminal damage offences, which is high."
School criminal damage has a 38% detection rate.
Ch Insp Lee said much of the offending was made up by "tagging" incidents where groups of teenagers sprayed gang names on the walls of shops and homes.
He said police were in talks with the courts to ensure that sentences for criminal damage reflected the impact of the crime on society. Figures show criminal damage accounts for 26% of all crime in Preston each year, leaving the victims around £750,000 out of pocket.
Police say an Evening Post appeal about the Mears Carpets attack has led to two children, one of them just eight-years-old, being arrested.
Inquiries are continuing and more arrests are expected.
Anyone with information about vandalism in their area can contact Preston police on 01772 203203 or call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111. 26 June 2006
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