THE scheme to caution youngsters instead of taking them into custody is to be extended. Principal Assistant Secretary for Security Jack Chan Jick-chi said yesterday that the age limit for the Superintendents' Discretion Scheme would be lifted from 17 to 18, in a response to a governmental study on juvenile delinquency. The number of new young offenders included in the programme would also be expanded, except in the case of serious crime. The head of the Police Public Relations Branch, Eric Lockeyear, told the Legislative Council security panel meeting that the force was considering allowing drug addicts and other offenders to join the scheme although there were worries about the need for medical care. The system worked on a case by case basis. Last year, about half of new young offenders were included in the caution scheme. A Central Fight Crime Committee report published last month proposed young offenders be treated more leniently before being put into custody. The study, entitled Social Causes of Juvenile Crimes, said the Government should monitor cautioning practices. It also proposed the creation of community-based programmes that could be used as an alternative to custody for young offenders. Mr Chan said the Government was considering the recommendations. But he said a new advisory body would be unnecessary, since the police report to the Central Fight Crime Committee every year. He said the report had been studied by the Health and Welfare Branch and Education and Manpower Branch, and new policies would be announced as soon as possible. Members of the panel urged the police to review the Junior Police Call programme, a major outdoor campaign aimed at keeping youngsters from crime, because its effectiveness was declining. Mr Lockeyear said they were reviewing the programme.