Youth crime: Business owner hit by ram-raiders 'disappointed' in National's boot camp policy

A business owner at the forefront of New Zealand's youth crime epidemic has criticised the National Party's plan to ship recidivist youth offenders off to boot camps.

If elected, National has promised the worst of New Zealand's reoffending youth aged between 15 and 17 would end up in military-style camps.

The party on Thursday pitched the plan as a "tough love" response to the country's ram-raid epidemic.

But Waikato shop owner Ash Parmar, who has previously been a victim of ramraids, told AM the policy missed the mark. 

"I was actually a bit disappointed because it really lacked context - it didn't say how much money can be spent properly… it's just an announcement about a future announcement which I find really disappointing."

Parmar didn't believe the policy would put National in a good place to win the upcoming Hamilton West by-election

"It sounds all good and it's in line with what retailers have been saying… but it just really has no context to it - what is it exactly going to look like? If they're going to put a policy out, put some dollar figures behind it."

National Police spokesperson Mark Mitchell said on Thursday the policy was about rehabilitating youth offenders before they entered the adult criminal justice system.

"We want to put these young people into an environment where they've got access to the best leaders, mentors and role models that we have as a country," he told Newshub Live at 8pm. "We want to invest in them and make sure that actually when they come out of that programme, they can rejoin society in a positive way and make good decisions in their lives because, right now, they're in a very bad environment where they're making very bad decisions - they're a danger to themselves and they're a danger to the public."

Aaron Hendry, a youth development worker in Auckland, believed the policy was a blunt instrument for a delicate issue.

"A lot of these kids, they're experiencing poverty, they're experiencing some really complex mental health, addiction, disabilities - they need specific services that can really address that."

Hendry told AM "little programmes" wouldn't solve the complex issues surrounding youth crime.

"I haven't seen any evidence that military camps work," he said.

"When I've looked at this policy, what I see is, yes, we're taking young people away but it's not going to solve that issue long-term - potentially it can cause greater harm."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the policy was appalling.

"It's dangerous, it's abhorrent and harmful, and it's just lazy political thinking coming from Christopher Luxon and the National Party," she told Newshub Late on Thursday.

"I am really clear that the solutions are with the community and whānau leadership… who understand that, actually, this is intergenerational trauma and healing that is needed. Otherwise, we will just keep seeing generational cycles of violence and harm."

Boot camps were used under Sir John Key's Government. A 2016 evaluation found 84 percent of participants went on to re-offend after the programme. 

However, the frequency of re-offending dropped 47 percent and the seriousness of re-offending dropped 57 percent.