Thursday, February 22, 2024

National launches plan to combat youth offending

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National will create a new Young Serious Offender (YSO) category, targeting the ringleaders of crimes like ram-raids. Photo RNZ

National will crack down on serious repeat youth offenders like ram-raiders to turn their lives around and to protect the public, National Party Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“A ram-raid every 15 hours shows that Labour’s soft-on-crime approach is failing,” says Luxon, the MP for Botany.

“No place is immune from the youth crime wave, but some are being hit harder than others. For example, 20 per cent of all recent ram-raids were in the Waikato. Gang membership in the Waikato is up 70 per cent over the past five years and gangs are recruiting nearly three times faster than police.

“Enough is enough. My message to young offenders is that, under National, you will face consequences for your actions.”

National’s Combatting Youth Offending Plan will:

Target serious repeat offenders

National will create a new Young Serious Offender (YSO) category, targeting the ringleaders of crimes like ram-raids. This will apply to offenders aged 10 to 17 who have committed a serious offence such as a ram-raid, other aggravated burglary, or serious assault at least twice.

Consequences will include being sent to a Young Offender Military Academy, electronic monitoring, or being subject to an intensive supervision order in their community.

Create young offender military academies

National will create Young Offender Military Academies where YSOs aged 15 to 17 can be sent for up to 12 months. The academies will provide discipline, mentoring and intensive rehabilitation to make a decisive intervention in these young offenders’ lives. The Academies will be delivered in partnership with the Defence Force, alongside other providers.

Back police to tackle gangs

Some serious youth offending is being driven by gangs. Young people are stealing to order and committing ram-raids as a form of gang initiation. As previously announced, National will give Police greater powers to tackle gangs including by banning patches and stopping gang members gathering in public.

Empower community groups to break the cycle of offending

National will fund community organisations and other non-government agencies to break the cycle of offending. Some YSOs will be ordered to undergo intensive supervision by community-based organisations. This will mean they face consequences for their actions and are equipped with tools to turn their lives around, while remaining connected to their families.

“New Zealand’s youth justice system works well for the majority of young offenders; 80 per cent of first-time offenders who interact with the youth justice system are dealt with quickly and put back on the right path,” Luxon says.

“National’s Combatting Youth Offending Plan targets the most serious repeat young offenders and will disrupt crimes like ram-raids by removing the ringleaders, some of whom have gang connections.

“Labour’s current approach is to wring its hands and do nothing. That’s not working for business owners getting a call at 2am to say a car has smashed through their shop, which has been looted. Doing nothing is also not helping offenders whose lives are destined for mayhem and misery unless there’s a circuit breaker.

“National is the party of law and order and we will not ignore the serious challenges that New Zealand faces.”

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