ACT lashes out at Government over youth crime, says victims 'deserve better'

ACT is calling on the Government to be more transparent about programmes that work with young offenders as new figures reveal youth crime has continued over the holiday period.  

It comes after the Government announced last month it's taking further steps to tackle growing youth crime with a "circuit-breaker" to crack down on young repeat offenders. 

Children aged between 10 and 13 who repeatedly engaged in serious offending would have a fast-track intervention introduced within 24 to 48 hours of crimes being committed.

But exclusive new figures provided by Oranga Tamariki under the Official Information Act to AM reveal 44 children have been referred to them under the "circuit breaker" programme.

ACT MP Karen Chhour told AM on Thursday the victims of crimes deserve answers.

"I think victims of these crimes deserve some answers, they deserve more than just a press release that tells them this is the solution," Chhour said. 

"They deserve to be told a detailed description of what that solution entails and how it's going to work and where the accountability is to make sure it does work." 

ACT's Karen Chhour.
ACT's Karen Chhour. Photo credit: AM

ACT is concerned the Government's "circuit breaker" youth offending programme is not enough to tackle increasing crime, with Chhour saying a "quick fix" will not make a major difference. 

"They're coming from environments that are setting them up to fail. So we don't just need a circuit breaker. We don't just need a quick fix, this is going to fix all your problems for the public," she said. 

"We need a long-term solution that gets to these children before they're committing these crimes. These children deserve better. The victims of their crimes deserve better and we need to have a plan." 

Chhour said Labour MPs need to be held to account over this programme to make sure the victims get the care they deserve. 

"We can have this vague program that we've been told about, but it's the details that matter and I will be making sure I'm asking those questions when we go back this year and making sure I'm holding them accountable," she said. 

"[So] these young people are actually getting the care they deserve because they're victims as well. But we're creating new victims and people are frightened out in the communities and they deserve some answers too."

On Saturday, police were alerted to a family harm incident outside a property in central Rotorua. When officers arrived minutes later, a "young person" attempted to stab one of the officers -  who was arresting another individual at the time - with a knife. 

A taser was deployed towards the individual but was not successful and they were taken to hospital for assessment.

Police said two women were arrested - one received a formal warning, and the other is being referred to Te Pae Oranga.

Chhour told AM these children are being raised in environments that Kiwis probably can't even comprehend.

"It's a fight or flight mechanism, they're just doing what they know and we need to get to these kids first," she said.

"It's easy to raise a happy, healthy child. It's really hard to fix a broken adult and when these kids are broken before they're even ten years old, something's wrong with our society.

"We all need to step up and we all need to do what's right and when we see things that are wrong, we as a society need to also do our bit and protect these kids too."

Kelvin Davis, Minister for Children, said in a statement to Newshub it's really great to see the results of the "circuit-breaker" program. 

"We have heard from the public and small businesses that this was of concern, which is why we have introduced initiatives such as these," Davis said. 

"To have every young person referred to Oranga Tamariki by police have a bespoke plan developed within 24 hours is fantastic.

"We know this works. It’s based on the Kotahi te Whakaaro model started last year, that has seen three-quarters of the young people referred not re-offend."

Watch the full interview with Karen Chhour above.