Ram-raiding rangatahi change lives after getting second chance

Auckland mother Kim Parata admits that her addiction to methamphetamine took over her life and nearly ruined her son's life too. 

Parata is clear that it's entirely her fault that her nine-year old son Demetrius joined a group of youths stealing cars and taking part in ram-raids and burglaries. 

"I'm not too sure if [other] parents want to say it, but I'm going to say it, mine was addiction," she explained. 

"Sometimes I'll just ignore him, you know, because I let the drugs get the best of me. I didn't pay attention to him." 

Parata assumed her son was going to school. Instead, Demetrius was out all night with a group of older rangatahi who were stealing cars and smashing up vape stores. 

Having her boy arrive home in a police car followed by the threat of Oranga Tamariki taking Demetrius away from her was a wakeup call for Parata. 

"I said to him, 'I love you, son. What would you like Mum to do?' And he said to me, 'I want you to change.'"  

Parata promised she would kick her methamphetamine addiction. 

Demetrius was enrolled into a programme run by a Manurewa charity for youth in trouble with the law and who regularly skip school.   

The Pride Project's Kura Manaaki programme for under 13-year-olds looks at the broader challenges that impact the kids and their whanau. Kura Manaaki is a far cry from the military-style boot camps which the Government plans to start trialling in the middle of this year. 

The programme is run by Tutemauri Pouwhare - a former street kid. 

"I'm an example of being able to change, so if I can do it, anyone can do it," he said. 

"We have a good opportunity to be able to make changes in their life before they get affected by alcohol, drugs, offending and all those types of things."   

His mentorship and the life skills taught by Kura Manaaki is proving to be a successful formula for keeping kids like Demetrius  out of trouble. 

Now, aged 11, Demetrius goes to school and his mother is free from methamphetamine. 

"I love seeing him being home, staying home every day, not being with that same crowd he was with before," Parata smiled. 

Keryn Mahoney owns a petrol station and a shop - she's twice been a victim of ram-raids and burglaries committed by young offenders. However, she doesn't entirely blame the children. 

"A lot of it is that these kids are bored. They don't have enough in their lives and these kids are just left to their own devices, which is going to create problems," Mahoney said. 

Mahoney supports trying to understand what is driving rangatahi to commit these crimes. 

"These kids, they're just misguided, that's how I feel but I don't hate them, I just feel sorry for them." 

Twenty-year-old Eryka Kiri was first arrested when she was just 14 years old. 

Kiri doubts boot camps will work for rangatahi like her. 

"I believe that it all starts at home. The environment that children are raised in, that's how we go into the world," she said.  

"If we came from better families you know, if we just had people to look up to, like, role models..." 

The Government is proposing changes under the Ram Raid Amendments Bill that would see 12 and 13-year-old first offenders criminally prosecuted.