Chris Hipkins: Some youth offending 'made for TikTok'

Source: 1News

New Police Minister Chris Hipkins says social media is playing a role in the spike in youth crime over recent months.

Hipkins told Breakfast the drivers of youth offending were complex and that it needed to be better understood so that it could be prevented.

"When it comes to some of the youth offending we're seeing at the moment, social media is playing a much bigger role.

"Some of those things we're seeing are made for TikTok videos. Those young people are basically aiming to become notorious. They're aiming for the fame that goes with their offending."

Stuff reported youth gangs across the country were bragging about crimes on social media.

Recent incidents involving young people included a ram-raid-style burglary in Auckland's Pukekohe and dairy robberies in Onehunga. Despite these, the Ministry of Justice's Youth Justice Indicators report found overall rates of youth offending dropped between 2010 to 2021.

Child welfare experts said locking up young offenders wasn't the answer and that they needed empathy.

But the Government had slashed the Youth Aid budget by $10 million in the past year. The programme sits within police and sees specialist officers work with young people to keep them out of the court system and help with interventions.

ACT's police spokesperson Chris Baillie said in April the budget cut was part of why "we’re seeing the tragic results with the current youth crime wave".

“With many years experience as a Youth Aid police officer, I know well the positive impact intervention can have on troubled youth. There needs to be greater involvement in these kids’ lives by Youth Aid, before they commit more serious crimes," Baillie said.

READ MORE: New Police Minister Chris Hipkins comes out swinging at critics

Hipkins, one week into the police portfolio, said he wasn't across the details of Youth Aid's funding yet. But, he acknowledged the need to keep young people engaged in school, apprenticeships and employment so they didn't come into contact with the justice system.

As for the issue of gangs and recent gang-related shootings in Auckland, driven by conflict between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs, Hipkins acknowledged there were "escalating tensions".

That's a departure from his predecessor Poto Williams, who said in March she "reject[ed] the premise that gang tensions have increased under this Government's watch" when asked by National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell. In June, she said there was a "recent escalation in tensions" between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen.

National had also been calling for stronger anti-gang laws. Mitchell promised to give police new powers, including warantless search powers to go after illegal guns if a gang member was subject to a Firearms Protection Order.

National's other policies include allowing police to disperse public gang gatherings. Mitchell cited the passing of similar laws in Western Australia as examples that Aotearoa could follow.

A research report released by the New Zealand Law Foundation in April concluded that it was "not clear" whether tougher laws reduced overall organised crime or violent offences in the country.

Hipkins said solutions to tackle the problem of gangs and firearms needed to come "from all different angles".

He said these included reviewing police powers to make sure they had what they needed to be effective as well as other underlying social issues that contributed to crime.

"It's not going to be a simple fix and those who do say that it's a simple fix generally punting up solutions that have been proven not to work.

"I think we have to acknowledge it is a complicated situation and we need to do everything we can to tackle it."

He said any expansion in police search powers needed to be done carefully so legal firearms owners weren't caught up inadvertently.

"We want to make sure legal firearms owners who are doing the right thing and following the law, we want to make sure they can continue to do that… but we want to get those illegal guns out of circulation."

National leader Christopher Luxon told Breakfast last week his party was "very comfortable and very happy" to work with Hipkins on its new anti-gang policy.

Hipkins replaced Williams as Police Minister last week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said "change is required" in the police role as Williams came under pressure amid an escalation in gang activity.