ACT's crime plan: Slap youth shoplifters with fines, extend Three Strikes to burglars

Slapping young shoplifters with fines, extending the recently-repealed Three Strikes law to burglars and reviewing the use of electronic monitoring for violent offenders are among ACT's latest proposals to crack down on crime.

The political party released its latest policy document on Tuesday, promising to bring "real change" to the law and order space where it says the Government has failed due to "getting criminals and victims mixed up". 

"The news headlines lately could be out of the L.A. Times, with ramraids, gang violence, youth crime and gun crime becoming a daily occurrence. The crimes are increasing brazen, such as robbing jewellery stores with a hammer in broad daylight," leader David Seymour said.

While there's been a dramatic uptick in ram raids in recent months, particularly in Auckland, ACT says that isn't where someone's criminal offending begins. It says theft is a common first offence it wants to see greater punishment for. 

"ACT acknowledges that the drivers of youth crime are multi-faceted, that is why we’ve also made recommendations on addressing government failure in education and state care," the party's policy document says.

"However, we also acknowledge the victims of crime can sometimes be short-changed as authorities balance the different objectives of the youth justice system."

It wants to introduce infringement notices for shoplifting, which would allow officers to deal with the offender on the spot. If the alleged offender disputes committing the crime, they would be charged and go through the usual justice process, the party says. The infringement notice could include a fine or community service.

"We issue infringement notices for speeding. If everyone had to go to court for every offence no one would be convicted, and everyone would speed," said ACT police spokesperson Chris Baillie.

"Kids need to learn that there are consequences to their actions - the faster that lesson can be learnt, the less likely they are to reoffend."

Newshub reported that in the first six months of 2022 there were 254 ram raids, a 518 percent increase on the first six months of 2018. A police report found 76 percent of ram raids were committed by youths under 17 years old, with 17 percent being under 13.

The Government announced in May that it was investing $6 million from the Proceeds of Crime Fund into a small retail crime prevention programme to fund the installation of bollards and other structures outside stories. It was expected that up to 500 premises would qualify, but only a handful had received funding by early August.

Chris Hipkins and Kiri Allan, who became the Police and Justice Ministers respectively in June, last month also announced they are beefing up police powers to crack down on gang activity. Allan said one of her priorities was to look into the youth justice system to "make changes that will improve both the lives of at-risk young people and public safety over the long term".

ACT has released its law and order policy document.
ACT has released its law and order policy document. Photo credit: Getty Images.

ACT also wants to bring back the Three Strikes law - which was repealed by the Government just last week - and make it applicable to recidivist burglars so they eventually face a minimum three-year prison sentence without parole.

Before being scrapped by Labour, the law required maximum sentences to be handed down to criminals who committed a violent or sexual crime three times. However, there were concerns about whether this was deterring offending as it was intended to.

ACT justice spokesperson Nicole McKee said the repeal of Three Strikes showed the Government "cares more about cuddling criminals than it does about protecting victims and the community". She said Kiwis overwhelmingly opposed it being repealed during the Select Committee process.

"ACT would not only bring this policy back, but we would also expand it to burglaries. Burglaries are often premeditated and can cause huge financial and psychological harm to victims.

"There were 289,000 burglaries over the past year. Weak sentencing for burglary means there’s little motivation for people to report burglaries, and little reason for police to give them priority. It also means there’s no deterrent for people to stop committing them."

The third new proposal from ACT is to have the Crown pay reparations to victims of crime straight away rather than offenders making payments into their victims' accounts over time. The Crown would have to recover the cost of the reparations from the offender.

"Financial reparations are an essential part of a victim’s recovery from trauma, but these payments can be drip-fed at amounts as low as 65 cents and in some cases can take over a decade to be paid back," McKee said.

"That’s frankly insulting to victims and can prolong their trauma. Seeing a few dollars or cents in your bank account sporadically can be a painful reminder of what they’ve been through."

ACT's Nicole McKee.
ACT's Nicole McKee. Photo credit: Newshub.

Finally, ACT wants a review of electronic monitoring as its concerned the Government's focus on lowering the prison population has led to softer sentences.

Newshub reported on Monday that the number of child sex offenders on home detention had increased 75 percent since Labour took office, while there's been a 133 percent increase in electronic monitoring for gang members sentences for violent offences.

"There are also more people tampering with their bracelets. At the beginning of 2017 there was 1 person a month recorded as interfering with the ankle bracelet. By the end of 2021 there were 47 a month," said ACT corrections spokesperson Toni Severin.

"ACT would review the use of electronic monitoring for violent offenders, and we would abolish the prison population reduction target."

The policies released on Tuesday come on top of previous ACT ideas like using Inland Revenue to investigate gangs' incomes and the tax they pay, repealing recent firearms legislation and making rehabilitation and skills programmes compulsory for parole.