A youth worker with 15 years of experience says New Zealand is dealing with a “generation of hopelessness” and he isn’t surprised the country is seeing a rise in crimes involving young people.
There have been several serious incidents involving children this week alone, including an attempt to rob a Hamilton mall.
Police say the average age of people committing ram-raid type offences is now between 12 and 18 years.
Hadleigh Pouesi told Breakfast he believes many youth are disaffected and are therefore more easily tempted into participating in crimes.
“When you’re presented with an opportunity to make some quick money quickly with a bunch of your peers - it frustrates me but I see why young people are making these decisions,” said Pouesi.
“It’s because there’s not much else for them to do.”
Pouesi says opportunities that were open to him when he was growing up, such as buying a house, aren’t possible now for many young Kiwis.
“It’s not a dream that seems attainable anymore.”
He also believes the Covid restrictions have also played a part in strengthening the feeling of hopelessness among young people.
“Everything that young people live for has been deemed non-essential.”
“What I see is we’ve come to this spot where we’re at the end of a pressure cooker and we’re seeing the results, the residue of some really harsh social environments.”
Pouesi agrees with the police’s assessment that social media is contributing to the problem, with offenders often posting videos of their crimes online to gain approval.
He says that people are willing to go to great lengths to gain the social affirmation that is found mainly on their phones.
“They’re not getting that sense of belonging anywhere else. They’re not getting that sense of community anywhere else. So, they’re looking for their phones, they’re looking for apps, they’re looking for the likes and the comments to give them that.”
Pouesi says the key to tackling the issue of youth crime is understanding that there is no one solution to the issue.
However, he believes what he calls “preventative models”, such as sports clubs and youth programmes, are key and that the country should be investing in them, especially after Covid.
“These things actually give young people a sense of belonging and a sense of identity.
“They are positive and healthy engagement tools that haven’t been there for the past two years.”