Police are warning young people responsible for a spate of robberies in Northamptonshire that the courts will treat them as serious criminals, not merely as bullies.
Across the county, there have been 105 robberies since April 1, many accompanied by attacks and threats in the street.
Vulnerable people have usually been the victims, particularly children or teenagers on their way to or from school.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Woliter said the perpetrators should be under no illusions as to the action a court would take.
He said: “I don’t think they understand the severity of it. As soon as you demand someone’s property and they hand it over, you are a robber.
“Every robbery is dealt with by a detective and will be thoroughly investigated to ensure everything is done to find the offenders and prosecute them. For these offences you can be jailed for life.”
In some of the robberies during the past few weeks, knives have been used to threaten the victims.
Items stolen have included mobile phones, bags, bicycles, skateboards, money and jewellery.
Incidents have been recorded in Northampton, Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough.
Overall, there have been 18 more robberies between April 2013 and June this year than in the previous 12 months.
DCI Woliter said: “It’s cowardice, really; picking on women and children who will provide little resistance and will be easy pickings.”
Anyone with information they think could help the police can call 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Simple apps can help police track robbers:
*On June 3, in Castle Bush, Duston, Northampton, two boys, aged 10 and 11, were threatened by older boys, who demanded the victims hand over their bikes.
*On June 4 at 7.45pm, two 15-year-olds were walking down an alley near Asda in Kingsthorpe when an older member of a gang demanded one of the boys’ phones. He also grabbed one of them by the throat for 30 seconds and the victim was punched in the head. One robber was 5ft 8ins in a brown rain jacket with the hood up and he wore a black face scarf.
*Northamptonshire Police said the robbers are often after mobile phones. They recommend installing a simple app that can either lock the phone remotely or emit a signal making it easy for police to track.