Friday, August 19, 2022

Kate Hawkesby: Less support, more tough punishments for youth offenders


I'm wondering how long we're going to turn a blind eye to youth crime for.

ACT came out with a plan to try tackle it in its law-and-order policy the other day, but that's about it.

Ironically, as David Seymour was on the street talking about how to tackle youth crime, 5 storeys above him on the side of a building, youths were busy tagging. 

But it's no longer just an Auckland problem - we had the Palmerston North mall attack the other day - and the Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt is also proving an issue.

There've been a raft of brutal assaults around there, school students being targeted for their phones, or intimidated and harassed, and the other day a 14-year-old had his front teeth knocked out in a brutal attack.

It was reported he now has to wear a brace to hold his teeth in place and blend up his food in order to eat it. He's just 14. The Lower Hutt Mayor says it's 'deeply concerning', he's 'appalled' by the number of attacks in the area. 

But this is where it gets left to the community to fix these problems.

Local parents and the Mayor want to meet with Police on what to do about this, but what can they do? What will they do?

If instructions top down from Police are to go easy on youth offenders, then there is no way around that. ACT says it wants to put victims back at the centre of the justice system, and when it comes to youth offenders, they'd like to see instant practical punishments like fines and community service.

South Australia has a similar model, which makes young offenders pick up rubbish or clean up graffiti. 

But not everyone's on board with the punitive approach and that's part of the problem.

There's a lot of empathy for young offenders in terms of where they come from and why they do it. A lot of stock is put on their home environment and what circumstances they're coming from.

While that may be relevant, I don’t think it's realistic that you can wind back years, in some cases, generations of behaviour inside family units. Certainly not in a swift timeframe that might reduce offending for victims right now.

But some youth leaders believe you can.

Te Ora Otautahi Rangatahi Ora’s Amanda Smith said recently in an article that we need to give youth crime ‘context’. She said young offenders were 'pressured by years of Covid related disruptions, social media trends, and a cost-of-living crisis.

Newsflash - so are we all. Doesn’t mean we've all taken up a life of crime. But she claims they 'do know the difference between right and wrong and that 'many of them are hungry, not stupid.'

And that I could believe, if, in the 400 percent increase in ram raids, the items stolen were bread, milk and cheese, but they're not.

It's vape pods, bubble gum and alcohol. If they were truly hungry and not stupid, why would they ram a shop's front door down for bubble gum?

She says the response to youth crime needs to be more support, but I'm just not sure how much more support and where you spread that support? Is it schools who need to pick up yet more social work and help support here? Is it local community groups who're already stretched? 

I think to be honest it's actually the job of Police, and I think at this point, surely an immediate punishment is more effective and instant, than spending months trying to rebuild or restructure entire family units.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.


Anonymous said...

It's because of idelogy. On te pati maori's fb page, they state that crime by youth is due to the colonial jail system which isn't a fit for maori and is racist. So if labour plan on winning the next election by joining with kingmaker maori party, they need similar views.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting once the queen dies and we become the republic of aotearoa with our own head of state, who presumably won' t be into colonial westminster laws, jails etc and will want a justice system where maori offenders cannot be jailed. If we think nz's not much fun now, imagine what the future may hold.

Kiwialan said...

Why not send the prisoners off shore? A year or 3 in a Chinese jail would sort them out, they would never want to go back. Plus the Chinese could probably do it for $100 a week per prisoner and if they don't work then they don't eat. Problem solved and the taxpayers save a heap of money. Kiwialan.