Children as young as eight have been caught breaking into someone else’s home in Scotland in recent years, it has emerged.
Glasgow has the biggest problem with 79 cases, while in Edinburgh there were 65 cases reported to the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration (SCRA).
Children as young as nine, 12 and 13 were reported in the Scottish capital.
But cases in Edinburgh have been falling, with the 35 youngsters reported in 2014-15 decreasing by half to 17 last year.
There have been 517 referrals over the past three years, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show. The statistics released through Freedom of Information show 186 under-18s were referred in 2016-17, broadly similar to the two previous years. In the three-year period, East Ayrshire and Highland council areas both recorded at least one eight-year-old being referred for breaking into someone’s home.
Across Scotland, at least three nine-year-olds and seven ten-year-olds were reported for housebreaking in the same period.
The figures also show there were 42 cases in North Lanarkshire.
The most common age for under-18 housebreaking referrals was 15, with 208 instances since 2014-15.
Mr Kerr said: “Being broken into and robbed is one of the most upsetting things that can happen to a household.
“For victims, it’s irrelevant what age the perpetrators are. It remains terrifying and can leave a lasting impact.
“It’s alarming that hundreds of children have been referred for this crime across Scotland in recent years and the trend isn’t improving.
“We need to get in and ensure these youngsters are put on the right path because once people start out on this road to a career in crime, it’s extremely hard to get them off it. When children who haven’t even reached their teens are being referred for this, questions really do have to be asked about the parents too.”
Mr Kerr said there was “an extremely poor clear-up rate” for housebreaking across Scotland, with recent government statistics showing it stands at just over one in five instances (22.5 per cent).
The Scottish Government last month introduced a proposed new law at Holyrood to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from eight to 12.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Where the behaviour of a child gives rise to concern, it is essential that this is addressed sensitively, effectively and promptly, with the child and their family. Many of the perpetrators are vulnerable children themselves.
“Our firm focus on diversion and prevention has achieved dramatic, positive results, and contributed to an 83 per cent reduction in the number of offences referrals to the Children’s Reporter in recent years.”