ACT Party wants youth offenders who commit serious offences to wear ankle bracelets

Offenders as young as 11 who commit serious offences would have to wear ankle bracelets that monitor their every movement under a policy being proposed by ACT.

Leader David Seymour says the Government's recently unveiled package to crack down on youth crime is just a "grab bag of reheated policy" and "doesn't introduce a single consequence for youth offenders".

"The Government's answer is to extend policies they already have in place," Seymour said. "Do they really think that ram raids will stop by extending a few programmes that already exist?"

Ministers on Tuesday morning announced the Government is extending a number of schemes, including the Youth Guarantee Programme - which provides fees-free courses to 16-19 year olds - and the Ākonga Fund, which helps re-engage youth in education.

The South Auckland Social Wellbeing Board - a cross-agency team involving police and Oranga Tamariki - will also start working with youth in West Auckland.

"Over the past four months all children under the age of 14 who were apprehended as a result of a fleeing driver or ram raid or other serious offending in Counties Manukau have been referred to the board who can provide wrap-around support and refer them on to other programmes in order to steer them away from crime. As a result three quarters have not reoffended," said Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.

Police Minister Chris Hipkins said punishing young people through the criminal justice system often sets them up for a life of adult crime.

While he said young offenders "will continue to be dealt with seriously", the programmes the Government is extending are "about a second chance for those that merit it".

"We're ramping up our investment in young people to create even more opportunities for them to earn and learn," Hipkins said.

"We want to provide every young New Zealander with the chance to succeed. To do that we've identified youth-focused programmes that are working already out in the community, and investing heavily to scale them up."

ACT says the Government's announcement lacks consequences.
ACT says the Government's announcement lacks consequences. Photo credit: Getty Images.

But the ACT Party wants to see more consequences, announcing on Tuesday that it wants to see ankle bracelets strapped to youth offenders who carry out serious offences.

"Ram raids are being carried out by the same, hardened group of young people who face no consequences," Seymour said. "They’re too young for prison, they’re known to escape from youth justice facilities, or are sent home to their families where they have a lack of guidance and discipline."

"Some people will say 11-14 is too young to wear an ankle bracelet. Do those same people say it’s too young to carry out a ram raid? ACT says if you can do the crime, you can cop the punishment."

He said ankle bracelets are "non-intrusive" and "allow the police to know where they are at all times". They also provide "any easy way to enforce curfew, to make sure kids are at school and to separate young offenders".

"If they have a tracking bracelet, their mates will not want them around and penalties such as staying at home in the weekend and home after 5pm could be enforced," Seymour said.

"This is a simple and effective way to make kids think twice before offending and to break the habit. It sends the message our community does not accept this behaviour. It is not glamorous, it brings shame."

Last month, ACT also suggested youth offenders should be slapped with infringement notices if caught shoplifting.

The National Party reacted to the Government's announcement on Tuesday by describing it as "window dressing" with no "meaningful consequences".

"Most ram raiders aren’t being caught by Police and if they aren’t being caught they can’t be given 'wraparound services'," said justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith.

"Once again, victims are not at the heart of Labour’s announcement. More support has been announced for offenders, while victims are still at the back of the queue."

The Government is trying to respond to a spike in youth committing ram raids and burglaries.

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. But police are still deciding at which businesses to spend that.