All-Govt approach needed to tackle youth crime - security expert

Source: 1News

A security expert believes an all-Government approach, involving talking to deprived communities about how to create prosperity, is essential to tackling the problem of youth crime in New Zealand long-term.

Chris Kumeroa, from Global Risk Consulting, has recently been involved in a security threat and risk assessment commissioned by the Whakatane District Council, following a spate of ram-raids.

It found that the issue was region-wide and mainly involved groups of people under the age of 18 who were willing to travel to commit these crimes.

The most common items being stolen included alcohol, cigarettes, clothing and jewellery.

“We found that some of them, not all of them, came from highly deprived backgrounds,” Kumeroa told 1News.

“If you think about the economics at the moment, the cost of living – rental, food prices – they’re all sort of going through the roof.”

Kumeroa says one aspect of this issue is that young people who have been convicted of crimes are often put in juvenile detention centres where they are encouraged to develop the skills needed for criminal behaviour by other youths.

Young people talking about and posting video on social media of their crimes is also a problem, according to Kumeroa.

“It’s what they call ‘easy money’ and they get sort of pats on the back I guess, when they engage in this sort of activity.

“At some stage it may lead to a fatality, which is something we’re all trying to avoid.”

In order to do this, Kumeroa believes people from deprived backgrounds need to be consulted more on what prosperity looks like for them and that this needs to involve all parts of Government, as well as outside investment.

“I think you’ll see a lot of curbing of the health issues, social deprivation and the like starting to take a shift.”

However, he believes that because deprivation is in some areas is multiple generations deep, it might take a generation or two to build that prosperity.

When asked on Breakfast if she believes there has been under-investment into deprived communities by successive governments, the Prime Minister responded “yes”.

“If we want to, ultimately, make meaningful change for particularly children, who we are finding in our criminal justice system, which is a small number, and youth offending, we actually need to do much more than look at our criminal justice system,” says Jacinda Ardern.

She identified "common themes" among youth offenders, including care and protection issues, disengagement with education, and family violence.

File picture.

Specifically addressing the issue of ram-raids, the Prime Minister says the data shows this is a “spike rather than a trend” but an issue that needs to be addressed nonetheless.

Ardern believes some of the $600 million allocated in Budget 2022 to help police tackle gangs and offer greater rehabilitation will help to solve the issue of youth crime.

Kumeroa says this may in the short-term help businesses who have been affected by the ram-raids but is not necessarily a solution to the underlying issues.

He also says the security assessment undertaken for Whakatane District Council found only a fraction of the ram-raids they looked at were gang-related.