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A leaked 250-page report on proposed crime-fighting strategies, drawn up on instructions of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, recommends training nursery workers to target children as young as 3 years of age as potential criminals.

The Home Office report, entitled Crime Reduction Review, lays out a series of ideas for effectively cutting crime in the UK. Without implementing the new measures, the report warns, the crime rate will rise 8.5 percent by 2008.

Children as young as 3 can be labeled as potential criminals, the report’s writers claim, if the exhibit bullying behavior in nursery school or if there is a history of criminality in the immediate family.

“From the simple perspective of reducing crime … the arguments for focusing resources on the children most at risk are ‘overwhelming,’” the Home Office strategy unit conclude.

Eighty-five percent of prisoners in UK juvenile detention facilities have histories of bullying in school, say researchers cited in the report, while 43 percent of male adult prisoners have children with criminal records.

“There is perhaps too much concern about the potential negative impacts of targeting on children and their families,” the report reads.

The document proposes parenting classes when a child is identified as a potential criminal and intensive foster care for children who are not “under control.” So-called “soft” measures – improving reading, language and social skills – are also recommended for “potential offenders” who are caught early enough, reports the London Times. The UK education secretary is expected to announce a $780 million program tomorrow that implements similar measures, providing breakfasts, after-school sports and art classes as part of a 10-hour school day.

But it is the “restricted” report’s targeting of children so young that has caused embarrassment for the Home Office. One critic, cited in the report, complains that the Home Office is trying “to criminalize our children.”

“We are not prepared to comment on a leaked document,” a spokesman said this weekend. “It was one of a number of contributions of the thinking on crime reduction.”

In a related move to preempt crimes that may or may not happen, the Violent Crime Reduction Bill was published last week. The measure gives the police the right to designate “alcohol disorder zones” and issue 48-hour exclusion notices on anyone they believe is about to cause trouble in an area, even if they are not drunk or have committed no offense. Disregarding the ban carries a potential prison sentence.

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