Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith signals tougher consequences amid rise in youth offending

Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith is signalling tougher consequences for young offenders as new figures show a sharp rise in youth crime.  

But the Chief Children's Commissioner Claire Achmad believes criminalising young people is not the answer and would only entrench inequality.  

Ministry of Justice data shows there were 7327 offences committed by 10 to 17-year-olds in 2021. That figure rose to 11,127 in 2023.  

And it was thefts and burglaries that dominated. The figures show there were 3264 offences across the two categories in 2021, and last year that figure increased to 5940. 

"The data is definitely telling the truth," Sanjai Bagia, the owner and operator of 11 Caltex stations, told Newshub.  

His Western Springs station was raided by a group of teenagers earlier this month.  

"We've had a couple more incidents," he said, but added that the police have responded well, and he has taken extra precautions.  

"We have actually stepped-up installing security assets to assist our staff and keep our premises and our staff safe." 

In just the past week, police have dealt with several youth crime incidents.  

On Wednesday, three boys aged 12 and 13, crashed a vehicle in the south Auckland suburb of Manurewa after road spikes were laid by officers. 

The same day in Hastings, eight juveniles were apprehended for shoplifting and disorder

That evening, six young people - including an 11-year-old - were taken into custody after crashing a vehicle in central Auckland and fleeing the scene. 

Auckland City Central Area Commander, Inspector Grant Tetzlaff, said it was extremely lucky no one was injured. 

"This was a fast-moving incident, which could have ended in many different scenarios." 

And it didn't stop there. A nine-year-old was one of five young people caught fleeing police in a stolen vehicle on Thursday night. The ordeal ended on Burbank Rd in Manurewa. Police say a member of the public was allegedly struck by the stolen vehicle. All five youths were apprehended and referred to Youth Aid. 

The Chief Children's Commissioner has met with young offenders. 

"The situation of these young people is often marked by poverty, trauma, dislocation from education, and the very systems that exist to serve children and young people," she told Newshub.  

But the Justice Minister says it's time they face tougher consequences. 

"There's a whole lot of drivers, but none of them are excuses for crime," he told Newshub.  

A law proposed by Labour is before Parliament that would allow 12- and 13-year-olds to be prosecuted for a new ram-raiding offence.  The Coalition Government is still deciding if it will support it. 

"It may be that we press ahead with that, or we may think actually, we'll deal with it better through our proposed approach which is two new tools: a Young Serious Offender category and military academies," Goldsmith said.  

Dr Achmad said that is not the way to deal with youth crime.  

"Criminalising children is not the answer here." 

But both the Chief Children's Commissioner and the Justice Minister agree that kids committing crime is a sad and concerning reflection of society.