Juvenile crime has been curbed with the launch of a taskforce in the southern New Territories, a senior police officer said yesterday. The region reported a 7.1 per cent drop in the total number of juvenile crime cases from 1,167 in 1997 to 1,097 last year. There also was a marked decrease in burglaries and vehicle crimes committed by juveniles last year, down 19 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. Police also reported similar drops in shop thefts and robbery cases, although there was a small rise in wounding and serious assault cases. New Territories South Regional Commander Keith Braithwaite attributed the drop in the overall figures partly to youth-care projects started by a working group created last April to address delinquency in the region. 'The projects have successfully increased communication between youths at risk and their parents, built up their confidence and kept them on the right track,' he said. 'We are therefore glad to see a fall in the juvenile crime rate last year which shows that our efforts have yielded results.' But Mr Braithwaite said there had been an upsurge in robberies by youths in the first quarter of this year. He said the economic downturn might have contributed to the rise but was at a loss to explain why similar increase did not occur in shoplifting cases, often favoured by juvenile offenders.