KIDS as young as four have drawn pictures of drug dealer, homes being broken into, and violent crime on the request of the police.

More than 200 pupils put pen to paper sketching violent crimes as part of a competition by Cumbria Police Authority which wanted the artwork for the front cover of its annual report, due to be published this week.

The winning picture of a bank robbery was sketched by a seven-year-old from Stramongate Primary School, Kendal, who won £20 and secured £50 for the school.

But the idea has caused concern and the competition has been deemed ‘inappropriate’.

MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron said that it was ‘good’ to make sure that kids know that ‘the world is not as safe as we would like it’.

But added: “ It is important that they (Cumbria Police Authority) engage with children but they need to be careful that what they do is appropriate as there is a fine line between creating awareness and sullying innocence.

“If they are doing things like this in the future they should check with head teachers and parent-teacher associations that it is appropriate.”

He added: “It has caused concern and it is understandable.”

Alan Rutter, divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Cumbria, said that asking children in primary schools to draw such violent pictures without the topics being put into context with workshops and liaisons with the police was ‘bizarre’ and said it would be a cause for concern.

Although, he added: “It is highly commendable that they want to improve links with children but it needs to be done with a level of responsibility.”

Thirteen primary schools in Cumbria took part and a spokesman for Cumbria Police Authority, said: “We organised the competition to engage with local children and encourage them to think about how crime and antisocial behaviour impact the community, and how the police tackle those issues.

“We provided a selection of themes so that schools could use their discretion and decide which were suitable for their particular age groups.

"For the younger children, there were topics such as theft and antisocial behaviour, and there were more serious themes for older children.

"We will continue to work with schools as it is important that children’s views are heard and considered.”

Head teacher at Stramongate School, Mike Pool, said: "The themes suggested by the Police Authority were for a wide age-range 4-16 complementing children’s citizenship studies.

"To presume, as reports have suggested, that primary schools would be so thoughtless as to present any of the themes in such a ‘stark’ way, is grossly insulting to primary school staffs, and so crediting highly professional staff with no common sense at all.

"Stramongate staffs’ approach was to discuss with children, at an age-appropriate level, their understanding of what they thought that the Police do; how the Police help to keep us safe; and then to represent their understanding in picture format."