Christopher Luxon calls New Zealand crime 'utterly unacceptable' as he doubles down on boot camp policy

National leader Christopher Luxon is dismissing criticism of his party's proposal to send crime-committing youths to boot camps despite being unable to provide evidence the policy will work.

He also insisted the proposed policy is different from the one implemented by the previous National Government under Sir John Key.

Luxon announced the policy in November in an effort to ramp up National's tough-on-crime credentials, amid a spate of youth offences that have ramped up again in recent days.

If elected this year, National plans to send teens aged 15-17 who commit at least two serious offences to military camps.

"Following the logic of the problem, what is the problem? We've got a 30 percent growth in violent crime, 40 percent growth in retail crime, 55 percent growth in gangs and a ram raid every 10 hours," Luxon told Newshub Nation on Saturday, during his first long-form TV interview this election year. 

"That's the problem that we've got, that's utterly unacceptable in New Zealand - that is not a new normal we have to accept. We have to do something about it."

Luxon, speaking to Newshub Nation host Rebecca Wright, said the boot camps idea wasn't reheated policy - adding the programme under the last National Government was "much smaller in scale" and "less comprehensive".

Christopher Luxon.
Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

"We take that and we look at what did or didn't work in that programme… and what is it that we need to fix and add to it," he said. "So what we've added to it is saying, 'Look, we think our military are some of our best leaders and mentors, we think adding community organisations in with them… is the best way to get to change the trajectory of where those young people's lives are going.'"

He rejected accusations the boot camps are an "experiment". 

A 2018 report on youth offending by Sir Peter Gluckman, the then-Prime Minister's chief science advisor, found "boot camps do not work" and similar programmes "have been shown to increase crime". 

But Luxon said National had "spoken to so many people" for feedback on its current policy.

"We're interested in outcomes and we're interested in breaking patterns, and making sure that those young people have an opportunity."

He said National was ready to try something different.

"I'm prepared to try new things to get outcomes and deliver better outcomes. I'm not happy to sit there and have a ram raid happen in New Zealand every 10 hours and us to say, 'That's the new normal.'"

Luxon was adamant National's plan would lead to more positive results.

"We have a responsibility so that Kiwis feel safe in their homes, businesses and communities," he said. 

"What we've said is, we want community organisations embedded in these academies and we want them picking up a relationship with those young people when they come out but, I'm sorry, I'm not going to apologise because I'm interested in the outcome, right?"

Last month, police unveiled new data showing there were 519 ram raids in New Zealand last year - up from 295 in 2021. 

As of March 15, there had already been 58 ram raids so far this year.

Over the previous three-year period, 602 youths were connected to the ram raids being committed - more than three times as many as adults.

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