West Midlands Police take more than 100 DNA samples from children and teenagers every week, new figures have revealed.
Police were accused of “stigmatising” young people as it emerged 6,020 samples were taken from youngsters under the age of 18 in the region last year. Of these, 2,545 came from children aged 14 or below.
But the force said the use of DNA helped to solve serious offences, and deter future crimes.
A spokesman said: “More than half the samples were taken from youths arrested for criminal damage, violent crime, theft, robbery or burglary.”
The figures were published by the National Policing Improvement Agency, a Home Office body set up to help forces improve, in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Liberal Democrats.
They showed that across the country, 111,337 samples were taken from young people last year. DNA samples can be taken by police when they arrest someone for a recordable offence. However, the samples are then retained whether the suspect is eventually charged and convicted, or not.
Ministers are currently reviewing the national DNA database, following a European Court ruling in May that said it was illegal to keep the profiles of innocent people indefinitely.
It is proposed that most children who are arrested will have their profiles deleted when they are 18. Youngsters convicted of serious sexual or violent offences, or terrorism-related offences, will have their DNA held for 12 years.
The number of samples taken has fallen in the West Midlands. In 2008, police took 7,690 samples from people aged below 18.
Jo Shaw, a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate in London, who uncovered the figures, said: “Storing the DNA of thousands of innocent young people as young as ten is unlikely to solve our crime problems, but is a costly way of stigmatising young people. If you’re innocent, you shouldn’t have your data on who you are kept for years.”
She added: “Labour’s approach to tackling crime is unfair, heavy-handed and ineffective.”
A West Midlands Police spokesman said: “Young people arrested for serious crimes which have a direct and damaging impact on the lives of families in the West Midlands routinely have their DNA samples taken.
“These are crimes that strike at the heart of our communities and the use of a DNA database is an important tool in helping solve such offences.
“Results are stored on the database to enhance the ability of officers to solve other linked crimes, now and in the future.”