It is a “positive sign” that the number of young people appearing in juvenile court has decreased, the prime minister said.
Jacinda Ardern said it was also a “positive trend”, with the number of repeat offenders appearing also decreasing.
The issue of juvenile delinquency came to the fore last week after a spike in pick-up raids.
The latest happened early Saturday morning when a group of young people stole around $50,000 worth of clothing from the Icebreaker store near Auckland Airport.
READ MORE: Juvenile delinquency is a ‘solvable and manageable problem’ – expert
The five youths crashed into the front door of the store before fleeing in a second vehicle, which then crashed into a school fence.
One of the alleged offenders was caught and clothing stolen from the store was found in the wrecked car.
Most of the children and young people involved in the wave of raids and robberies across the country are known to Oranga Tamariki, the organization said.
According to the latest Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report, which shows the flow of children and youth through the youth justice system from 2010/11 to 2020/21, offending rates among 10 to 13 year olds fell 65%.
During the same period, youth delinquency rates dropped by 63%.
“There are still young people who – search for a number of reasons – end up in our system,” Ardern told Breakfast despite those statistics.
“We need to support these local community responses, because they know these families, they know their situation, and they’re going to be much more likely to make a difference than just pulling us out of a law change.”
Over the past week, police said social media was a key driver behind the spike in ram raids.
A former police negotiator said the drivers of crime needed to be examined, while a youth worker said the country was facing a “generation of despair”.
National believes the government is “very soft on crime.”
Everyone seems to agree, however, youth crime cannot be attributed to just one factor, and that community is key, which Ardern went on to address.
“We need to make sure that we support our communities to respond to these issues, but I don’t want to see knee-jerk reactions that make a problem worse, and that’s where we need to make sure that we’re really targeting those responses.
“I’m not the expert to be able to tell you this, but I think we’re in a situation right now where it’s very difficult to grow in the environment that we’re seeing globally right now.”
Ardern said the government has been concerned about youth engagement in education for some time and that is why it is investing $88 million to keep students in school.
A report released last month – which examined Integrated Data Infrastructure data on 48,989 children from birth in 2000 to June 2019, as well as some case records from Oranga Tamariki and included interviews with people working in the system – noted children who were removed or suspended from school before age 10 were significantly more likely to commit crimes across all age groups.
The report also noted that almost half of those expelled from school before the age of 14 committed offenses in their childhood and youth.
Changing schools multiple times was also a problem related to delinquency, as was attending a lower decile school.
Ardern said that’s also why the increase in income has been so central – main benefits rose by more than 3% on April 1, according to the government.
“That’s where I’m always careful,” Ardern added, “because I know none of us want to create that impression, like if you’re in a low-income family, you end up in our criminal justice system. This is not at all what anyone here is arguing about, but we do know that there are of course links between social misery and poverty.
“We have and it makes a difference, but often these are very complex issues, so it’s not just the income, it’s what we do to make sure we have resilience in these young people and these children. also, who despite the environment in which they find themselves, that they have mentors, people on whom they can rely, hope that they have the possibility of a different future in situations where, for example , they might be affiliated with a gang.”