Exclusive: New OIA data reveals nearly half of retail burglaries committed by youths, 51 percent don't face court

New data shows the extent of New Zealand's youth crime problems with over half of juvenile offenders arrested for retail burglaries in a 10-month period last year not facing court time.  

This has sparked debate about how to handle juvenile offenders, with a youth worker calling for restorative justice while hard-hit businesses want tougher measures. 

Data obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act show an average of 18 burglaries a day over a 10-month period. 

There were 4906 retail burglaries between February and October last year - 272 days - with 49 percent of those arrested under the age of 18. 

But 51 percent of those arrested under the age of 18 did not face court action. 

The data also revealed 112 kids aged between 0-17 were arrested and received a family group conference as a consequence.

A family group conference is a meeting between Oranga Tamariki and the extended family of the arrested youth where the aim is to develop a plan to address any wellbeing issues relating to the child.

The next most common consequence was formal/informal warning with 43 youths receiving that. This included three kids aged under 10.  

Two people under 18 went through a Te Pae Oranga panel, while 94 kids didn't receive any consequence.

Exclusive: New OIA data reveals nearly half of retail burglaries committed by youths, 51 percent don't face court
Photo credit: Supplied/NZ Police
Exclusive: New OIA data reveals nearly half of retail burglaries committed by youths, 51 percent don't face court
Photo credit: Supplied/NZ Police

What is the solution?

Aaron Hendry, an Auckland youth development worker, is a firm believer in supporting kids from a young age. 

He told Newshub it's a "tragedy" to see young people involved in crime and often it shows the harm going on in their lives.

"It's saddening to see and thinking about the harm that's being caused to the communities, the shop owners, the businesses, the trauma that's kind of associated with that. Seeing those numbers is always very disheartening," he said.

Auckland youth development worker Aaron Hendry.
Auckland youth development worker Aaron Hendry. Photo credit: Newshub

Kids coming from troubled backgrounds of trauma, poverty, illness, social exclusion and homelessness are often at the forefront of youth crime, Hendry believes. 

He wants support thrown around them early on. 

"We know when we address those factors and ensure these young people get the support they need, they often don't get pulled into communities where they are committing crimes," he said. 

While Hendry is in favour of restorative justice, National wants more punitive measures. 

The party has regularly criticised the Government's response to youth offending, accusing it of being "soft on crime". 

National rolled out its plan to tackle crime last year, which would see some reoffending 15-17-year-olds sent to Defence Force boot camps. 

It also included electronic monitoring for offenders aged between 10 and 17 who had committed two or more serious crimes. 

National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell told Newshub the data shows the current consequences are not enough of a deterrent.

"Youth offenders are simply caught and released and are back out on the streets reoffending the same weekend," Mitchell said. 

"Retail crime is running unabated with many business owners fearing for their livelihoods, wondering when they will be hit next or hit again by thieves. 

National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell.
National's police spokesperson Mark Mitchell. Photo credit: Newshub

But Hendry said National's policies don't take into account what leads offenders to commit a crime and won't work. 

He told Newshub punitive measures don't empower young people into making changes and don't act as a deterrent. 

"I'd like to see a renewed focus on restorative justice and ensuring that actually, we are empowering those young people to understand the consequences of their decisions and actually make that right," Hendry said. 

He believes the answer to youth crime is not using kids as "political footballs" to win "political points". 

"It's really important we step back from the hysteria and recognise if we're going to solve this issue, we need to look at the evidence, we need to understand why these young people are in the situation they are in and then we need to respond appropriately," he said. 

With this year's election just seven months away, Hendry wants the focus to be on data to solve the youth crime headache.  

"We lean into really simplistic narratives, and those narratives perpetuate harm. I would much rather our political leaders had a debate on how we ensure these kids get the support they need so they're not in this situation in the first place," he said.  

But National isn't alone in calling for tougher punishments. Retailers, who are on the receiving end, also want the Government to do more. 

An Auckland superette in Ranui was ram-raided on Saturday morning.
An Auckland superette in Ranui was ram-raided on Saturday morning. Photo credit: Newshub

Retail says more needs to be done 

Dairy and Business Owners' Group spokesperson Sandeep Aggarwal told Newshub the Government is not doing enough to tackle youth crime. 

"There is a generation that takes whatever they like, when they like it. What happens if someone stands up to them? This is why retail workers get abused, assaulted and as happened last year, killed," Aggarwal said.  

Aggarwal said he's "saddened but unsurprised" by the OIA data, which shows there is little deterrence and even fewer consequences.

"Kids should not be robbing at 2am. That takes a special kind of parental ignorance that the Government is ignoring," Aggarwal said.

"This is not a victimless crime. Your business is often your house and is where your family sleep."

New Police Minister Ginny Andersen wouldn't comment on the data when approached by Newshub as it relates to decisions police are making.