Social media notoriety and 'pain' of lockdown, poverty behind ram-raids surge - youth agency

A spike in ram raids has seen yet more businesses targeted.

Youth agencies say the kids are seeking thrills and notoriety on social media and that the answers lie within the community.

Community groups say they can help but they need funding and resources to do it.

It comes after the Penrose Superette in Auckland was targeted for the second time in two weeks.

Two youths smashed their way in through the front door Thursday night, leaping over the counter and looking for cigarettes - but they left empty-handed.

The owner told Newshub he's stopped selling them: "Now I don't sell smokes because it's very risky nowadays."

"First we see the COVID time and that was very hard for the business owners and now this type of thing, it's very hard, very stressful as well."

And a Mt Wellington lunch bar was ram-raided early Friday morning. The owner was woken by a phone call just after 4am and arrived to find glass smashed everywhere. 

"I've owned the business for eight years and it's the first time this has happened," he said. "It's very upsetting, I didn't know what to do."

The offenders tried to take a cigarette cabinet and the till, but no money's held there and they left without.

Oranga Tamariki says overall youth crime has actually fallen 60 percent in the past 10 years, but Youth Justice Services director Ben Hannifin says ram-raids are a problem.

"There has definitely been a spike in that ram-raid offence, in Auckland particularly, in the last few months."

Hannifin says they're dealing with complex teenagers with tough backgrounds.

"Eighty percent of the kids that we manage come from homes where they've experienced violence in the home," he said. "Almost exclusively they're not in school, they're with a peer group that are kind of like-minded."

He says these incidents are driven by excitement and notoriety, with kids often posting their crimes on social media.

"The solution's not ours alone, nor is it the police's, it's the communities responsibility to identify what the opportunities are to help these young people look for alternatives to the excitement they're currently getting under these ram raids," said Hannifin.

Strive Community Trust CEO, Sharon Wilson-Davis, says youth services can help, but they need funding.

"The community have got the answers - they just don't have the money to do it to get the staff to do it."

Wilson-Davis says the COVID lockdown has also had an impact on these youth.

"They've been away from their friends, their families are broke, it's just a cesspit of pain and they're frustrated."

She says they used to run successful programmes but the funding stopped.

"I've been here 25 years so I've seen amazing results working with the young people. They're not all bad, they just think they're bulletproof. They're bored and these are unprecedented times."

She hopes to engage kids in more structured activities which are less damaging to communities.