Yobs and vandals were targeted by police last year with a major increase in the number of anti-social behaviour orders issued in the West Midlands.

But more than half of Asbos imposed on teenagers are ignored, the Home Office admitted yesterday.

And a critical report by independent watchdogs warned the orders had "limited impact" on the worst offenders. Asbos have been a key part of Labour's crime policy since they were introduced in 1998.

They are imposed by courts at the request of police or local authorities and typically ban offenders from committing specific anti-social acts or going to certain areas. New figures published by the Home Office yesterday showed 302 Asbos were issued in the West Midlands last year, up by 26 per cent in 12 months and more than double the figure of two years ago.

But Home Office Minister Tony McNulty admitted 57 per cent of Asbos handed out to juvenile offenders are breached. The breach rate for adults who received Asbos was 41 per cent.

And a report by the National Audit Commission, the official financial watchdog, warned there was "a hard core of perpetrators for whom interventions had limited impact".

It also warned the Home Office was failing to measure the success of its measures to tackle anti-social behaviour.

However, it said the majority of people who received an Asbo did not take part in anti-social behaviour again.

Mr McNulty said: "These figures show that local agencies use them as an effective way to stop bad behaviour."

He added: "I don’t accept a breach of an Asbo is the failure of an Asbo. Where breaches are reported it means that individuals are being monitored, that communities feel confident enough to report them and, let’s be clear, if an offender breaches his or her order, there will be serious consequences, and rightly so."

But Conservative shadow Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, said: "Asbos can be a very useful weapon against anti-social behaviour but if they are being breached on a regular basis then they are worse than useless.

"They can eventually become a badge of honour for young tearaways."

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: "Anti-social behaviour can blight communities and ruin lives. Asbos are a useful option when tackling this unacceptable type of behaviour.

"We will continue to work with partner agencies and communities to reduce crime and disorder and make our communities feel safer."

Courts in the area covered by West Mercia Police imposed 70 Asbos, up by 25 per cent. There were 30 Asbos in Warwickshire, up from 28 a year ago, and the number imposed in Staffordshire remained level at 60.

Other measures introduced include employing 373 "anti-social behaviour co-ordinators" nationwide; giving police and councils power to impose curfews, and councils the power to evict anti-social tenants.

But the National Audit Office report warned that council officials lacked the training and experience to use these powers effectively.

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