System shake-up to tackle youth and gang crime – NZ

System shake-up to tackle youth and gang crime – NZ

The New Zealand Government is today taking steps to crack down on an increase in brazen criminal offending, with a stronger multi-pronged approach that increases accountability, gives Police more tools and beefs up programmes to break the cycle of crime.

“Prevention, protection and accountability is our focus,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“So today, I’ve set out a first tranche of changes that will make offenders more accountable, back our Police with greater powers, and work to break the cycle of offending.

“The first of these changes is a crack-down on people who commission or reward children and young people to offend.

“We’re told many ramraids are done for notoriety on social media and the news or petty theft, but we know there’s also a planned or organised crime element to some of them.

“Using a child to commit a crime is cowardly, exploitative and destroys lives, so the consequences must be serious.

“Therefore, the Government is creating a new aggravating factor that would apply when an adult, whether or not connected to an organised crime group, aids, encourages or incites a person under 18 to carry out an offence.

“Second, posting offending behaviour online will become an aggravating factor in sentencing.

“It’s becoming increasingly common for offenders to video their criminal behaviour and post or livestream it to show off to their friends and followers.

“This ‘social media amendment’ we’re introducing will apply to adults and young people and provide the courts with an additional consideration when sentencing, and it sends a strong signal that this behaviour is unacceptable.

“Thirdly, we’re introducing greater accountability back to the people and communities impacted by crime.

“For offending by children and young people from the age of 10, the Family Court will be given the ability to require – not request, as it does now – offenders to undertake community activities, such as cleaning graffiti and picking up rubbish.

“The Family Court will also be able to require that an offender attend an educational, recreational or activity programme. That’s really important to get them engaged again and back on track and builds on the work we’re doing to improve school attendance.

“There will also be accountability for victims, with victims entitled to attend Care and Protection Family Group Conferences for the first time in relation to children over 10.  It will force the offender to confront the victims whose lives they are harming.

“None of this is about locking up children and perpetuating the cycle of crime. It’s about accountability and consequences to help break the cycle of offending.

“We’ll continue the careful and intensive work we’re doing to prevent young people from undertaking crime in the first place.

“We’ll also continue to work on policies and legislation against the gangs that are proven to work and are working.

“Since we introduced new powers for Police to combat gang activity, we’re seeing good results, most recently in Opotiki last month, with 26 vehicles searched, four guns seized and nine arrests.

“Forty thousand charges have also been laid against gang members as part of Police’s Operation Cobalt drive against organised crime, which was funded by this government.

“But the gangs need to hear the message that they cannot act with impunity.

“The balance has shifted.”

Police Minister Ginny Andersen said the Government is also backing the Police to pursue criminal offending through the courts by boosting the prosecution service with an additional $26 million to help clear the case backlog in the District Court.

“This funding will allow Police to add up to 78 full time equivalent staff to prepare their in-court work against those who’ve committed serious crimes,” Ginny Andersen said.

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