Govt's new youth crime package: Ramraiders under 14yo in Counties Manukau, west Auckland to be referred to 'social wellbeing board'

The Government is aiming to tackle growing youth crime with a suite of programme extensions announced on Tuesday morning.

Youth engagement and employment programmes will be amended to allow thousands more young people to participate. That includes the Youth Guarantee programme (1100 additional participants), He Poutama Rangatahi - Youth Employment Pathways (1400 more participants) while the Ākonga Youth Development Community Fund has been extended to the end of next year to support another 2750 young people and whānau.

In addition, all children aged under 14 years old caught ramraiding in Counties Manukau or west Auckland would be referred to a "social wellbeing board" as part of a cross-agency intervention.

"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," said Social Development (MSD) Minister Carmel Sepuloni. "As a result, three quarters have not reoffended.

"The success of this initiative in south Auckland is why we are extending it into west Auckland where a cross-agency team involving government agencies like MSD, police and Oranga Tamariki… respond directly to the needs of the children and young people who have offended."

Dubbed "Better Pathways", the youth crime package announced on Tuesday morning was intended to create more opportunities for young people to break the cycle of offending by young people, Police and Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

"While youth crime is down from a decade ago, we're seeing a spike of young people, even children, putting themselves and others in harm's way through high-risk activities such as ram-raiding and smashing shops and we want that to stop.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: The Hui

"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."

The new package would "help address complex and longer-term youth engagement issues that have been made more challenging by COVID-19", with many "still struggling with the impacts of the pandemic on them and their families", Hipkins said.

Another measure announced on Tuesday was the scaling up of family functional therapy and community-led youth inclusion programmes, with some 230 additional families set to benefit.

"Ensuring our children and young people have access to pathways into employment, education and training remains a priority for our Government," Sepuloni said.

Carmel Sepuloni.
Carmel Sepuloni. Photo credit: Newshub.

"We have chosen to back solutions and build on what is working for young people right now. It means we can tackle youth crime by getting those who have already offended or are at risk of offending the support they need, while also ensuring these successful approaches are embedded in the way Government does things in the long term, so we can make changes for the better."

In the first six months of 2022, there were 254 ram raids - a 518 percent increase from the same months in 2018. 

A police report found 76 percent of ram raids were committed by youths under 17 years old, with 17 percent being under 13.