Tackling youth offenders head on

As this is my final column pre-election, can I say thank you to the Botany Electorate for the opportunity to be your MP for the past six years.

Crime rates have been trending down in recent years, mostly due to the excellent work NZ Police do in the community. A lot of emphasis has been placed on working with young people, and we have seen a 31 per cent reduction in youth crime reduce since June 2011.

However, we want to do more to target the small group of young people who commit large numbers of violent and serious offences — such as aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, and rape.

If National is re-elected, we will fund a $60 million package over four years to target our most serious young offenders and help them to lead better lives.  We will be creating a new Young Serious Offenders (YSOs) category for the approximately 150 hardened young offenders which will establish a year-long defence-led Junior Training Academy.

The YSO will provide wraparound service for YSOs including support to address problems like addiction, mental health, or other drug issues, as well as supporting them through the curriculum good literacy and numeracy skills. The training will also focus on activity, and development of discipline and character.

YSOs who fail to complete their time at the Academy will be sent back to serve an adult prison sentence instead.  Other policies to target YSOs include tightening bail requirements, increasing the use of electronic monitoring, and removing the ability to be released early from any youth justice custodial sentences.

We also have to understand that most YSOs often have few good role models and have the freedom to commit serious crimes. This is why National plans to hold negligent parents to account.  Parents will be required to attend parenting education programmes, and ensure that breaches of parental orders are recorded on a parent’s record.

We will be implementing instant fines for parents who have kids under the age of 14 wandering around the streets between 12am and 5am.  It’s great that our crime rate is decreasing, but we need to acknowledge that there is a small group of serious young offenders, and we need to tackle the issue head-on. These initiatives will help us do that.

  • Jami-Lee Ross – Member of Parliament for Botany

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