YOUNGSTERS from the Malvern area who skip school to visit Worcester are putting themselves at risk of arrest, say police.

Officers have joined forces with Worcestershire County Council to pick up youngsters in the city centre, return them to school and tell parents or guardians.

West Mercia Police spokeswoman Vicki Davies said: "Children from places like Malvern who play truant are attracted to the city. Every weekday, police officers patrolling the Worcester area arrest, on average, two children committing crimes during school hours."

Most of them are picked up for offences such as shoplifting and vandalism, and some are as young at 10.

WPC Tina Dodd said: "The links between truancy and crime are strong, so one of the main aims of the sweep is to break the cycle and get children back into school before they become involved in crime and get a criminal record rather than GCSEs."

Tim Scott, of Worcestershire County Council, said: "As the local education authority, our priority is to ensure that all schoolchildren receive a sound education, which can only happen in the classroom.

"Playing truant is not only dangerous but seriously damaging to long-term prospects."