Senior Scotland Yard officers say that a new generation of vicious racists appears to be emerging. They fear that these thugs are being schooled in terrorising black and Asian families by bigoted parents and older siblings.
To combat the development, the Metropolitan Police's new Racial and Violent Crime Taskforce has begun circulating posters to police stations, warning of the developing pattern of extended racist families.
The head of the unit, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, said: "As an older generation died out it was hoped that attitudes would die out." But he had become aware of considerable racist activity by children aged between 4 and 10. He said many youngsters began with low-level attacks, involving graffiti and urinating on a victim's premises. "If the victim tries to fight back, we invariably see the arrival of the father or elder sibling and the attacks become more serious."
The Met's Assistant Commissioner, Denis O'Connor, said he had been disturbed by the results of analysis carried out for the force into 200 race attacks committed in London this year. He said that in more than half of the incidents - which include physical attacks as well as verbal abuse and racist graffiti - the person arrested had been aged 15 or under.
Many of these children are involved in repeat attacks on the same victims. In one recent case, police lay in wait inside the house of an Asian family who had been attacked many times. They later arrested a gang of children aged between 14 and 17 from the local school.
"But that's not the fix. We need a `one Britain' approach," Mr O'Connor said. "[The police] are sitting on top of something wider that's happening in our society. I would guess it's not being talked about robustly enough in our schools and elsewhere."
The taskforce has issued instructions to police stations to make greater use of new legal weapons contained in the Crime and Disorder Act, which can combat racism by children. These include parenting orders, which require parents to attend three months of counselling sessions, and local child curfews, which can be used to prevent youngsters under the age of 10 visiting certain areas after 9pm.
Mr Grieve said officers investigating race offences bychildren needed to explore whether their relatives were involved in similar criminal activity. "We need to know who is the influence, who collects them from school, who takes them to football," he said.
The pattern, known as "generational transmission", has been identified by researchers working on a government- funded project to examine the motives of racist attackers. The investigation, backed by the Economic and Social Research Council, involves interviewing dozens of racist offenders in Greater Manchester.
David Smith, a professor in social sciences at Lancaster University who is leading the project, said many offenders believed that the racism fuel-ling their criminal behaviour was shared by their parents. "They claim their parents would agree with their attitudes," he said.Reuse content