On Thursday 30 March 2017, New Zealand First Social Development Spokesperson Darroch Ball unveiled a plan to impose a system of demerit points for youth offenders. Mr Ball states that the plan would see offenders be subject to a multi-tiered system dependent on the type and number of crimes committed.
Given the dearth of attention and policy coming out of parties in Parliament aimed at reducing youth offending, this is good news. Whether one likes New Zealand First or not, credit has to be given for them for trying.
Youth crime stems from a range of socio-economic issues and their individual upbringing. A child from a family that is able to send their children to school, to feed and clothe them where the parents take an active interest in their well being is far less likely to commit crime than one from a broken family.
And it reminds me of a boy I knew at intermediate school. He came from a foster family. He said that he never does any homework because no one at home cares. No one is ever home to help or bothers to check whether or not he even had any. This boy never came to school with lunch, and often had not had breakfast. His hygiene was second rate.
Unfortunately the lack of care an supervision at home showed with him. He was suspended twice and on last warning when he left abruptly at the end of 1992. He fought with students, broke and stole belongings. If he did not like an instruction from the teacher he would scream and struggle. Although I did not miss him, I have often wondered what became of him and the others who lived in that foster home where it was obvious that there was no love or supervision. He was just past 12 when I last saw him.
Some of the people being caught committing violent in the last several months have been no older than this boy. Without doubt at least some of them came from similarly munted homes and families. Did they have a father figure in their life? Some boys simply need a male figure in their life to show them right from wrong, give them someone they can talk to about problems.
But are the criminals all boys from messed up families? Or are there a few girls involved as well? Do they have similar issues and backgrounds and if so are the solutions the same?
I do not know the answers to any of this, but this is an issue that New Zealanders are not prepared to ignore any longer. Irrespective of political orientation you have to agree that committing violent armed offences against businesses and their staff is simply not acceptable and that it is a punishment that merits a very serious response.
So, what do you want to see done about it?