More than 1,000 children – some involved in robbery and anti-social behaviour– have been hauled through the courts in the last year.
The cost of prosecuting the youngsters tops 1m – one young offender alone cost the taxpayer 29,000 in legal fees.
A staggering 90 Blackpool 10 to 16-year-olds have no school to go to, while up to 200 schoolchildren are temporarily excluded from class – many for bad behaviour.
And the situation could be about to get a lot worse as organisations which save youngsters from lives of crime and prison are set to be hit by massive cuts.
One leading police officer, whose team helps transform the lives of troubled Blackpool children, admitted out-of-control teenagers could spark "mayhem and carnage" on the streets.
The Government has ordered Blackpool Council to cut 16m from its children's and adult services budget. It provides services for excluded pupils and youth offenders.
Sgt Steve Hodgkins, of Blackpool Police's Youth Offending Team, said: "There is a real problem within communities in Blackpool, and without the work the youth offending team do there could be real mayhem and carnage on the streets.
"Many people demonise young people in Blackpool, and of course they do cause huge problems, but what they have got to realise is there's a reason behind their behaviour - and it's the symptoms we deal with."
The team have PCSOs posted in schools, and provide officers who visit houses and take troubled children to the cinema, to play pool and various other activities.
Along with the council's youth team, funded by the positive activities for children grant, they set up football matches and summer schemes, attended by 17,000 young people, who made 50,000 visits – and may find themselves with far less to do next summer.
"We deal with the youngsters who've perhaps committed minor offences or have been temporarily excluded from school, not with the serious offences," Sgt Hodgkins said.
"One lad we weren't successful with has cost the taxpayer 29,000 in court fees and police time so far, so it's vital we get to them."
PCSOs, who provide activities including one-to-one mentoring, football matches and emotional support through the Youth Offending Team, could also be axed, after every PCSO in the county was put on notice as the force decides how to deal with the cuts – and grants to provide activities could also go.
The Community Payback scheme, where young offenders are given litter picking and gardening instead of serving a custodial sentence, faces 20 per cent cuts over four years.
Youth groups have already seen funding cancelled after the demise of area-based grants which paid for centres such as Reassurance Plus in Grange Park, and the working neighbourhoods grant, to help combat anti-social behaviour.
Confronted by such problems, council leader Coun Peter Callow has written to the Government, pleading to make Blackpool a "special case" – so it does not have to find the total 32m in savings – which includes the 16m from the children's and adults services.
The resort currently has 400 children in care.
Mike Taplin, head of young people services in the resort, added: "These activities are invaluable for them, and it's a very scary time.
"We're determined to keep the schemes going, but we will have to work with other youth organisations to condense activities, which will mean less overall."
Blackpool's leading youth lawyer said the demise of intervention services could see children re-offend and ultimately end up in prison.
Defence lawyer Trevor Colbourne said: "I've done the job for more than 20 years and Blackpool is not only one of the worst areas for youth crime, but the type of crime is getting far worse.
"Whereas most cases involved shoplifting 20 years ago, many youngsters commit robbery and use knives – they are just not afraid of the criminal justice system.
"I've seen how the activity schemes by the Youth Offending Team help youngsters stop re-offending, the key is communication.
"The Community Payback scheme is vital, as the community can see justice and the young people might learn something.
"If these were not in place it would be the death knell for these children, as they would be more likely to be sent to prison - which is the very last resort."
The youngsters who have been helped by the services are equally worried.
One 14-year-old Blackpool student said: "Before I was helped by the Young People Service, my life was not too good.
"I had bad attendance – 19 per cent – at school, now I have had help and support I go to school and am happy at home. My attendance is now 92 per cent.
"I have won awards at school and I enjoy it. I sit on the youth club committee and am active in Blackpool Young People's Council and help make decisions on services.
"I also volunteer to help young people who were once like me."
Coun Peter Collins, cabinet member for children's services on Blackpool Council, said: "Unless the government ringfence us some money we will have to make cuts.
"We will be sitting down in the next two weeks to work out which services will have to be cut.
"The number of looked-after children has risen tremendously, and this is very costly - but this is a legal requirement so we need Blackpool to be given special consideration.
"Blackpool definitely has its problems, and all our children's workers do a magnificent job and they are essential."
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, said: "Blackpool has been unfairly hit by cuts, especially the Children and Adult Services department, which is vital for the town and we need to safeguard this.
"I've written to communities secretary Eric Pickles to tell him Blackpool should be a special case."
PICK UP A COPY OF TUESDAY'S GAZETTE AS WE SPEAK TO RESORT YOUNGSTERS ABOUT HOW THEY ESCAPED LIFE OF CRIME.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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