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‘Significantly more prevention work required’: Police Minister warned of hurdles in youth crime reduction target

Sophie Trigger,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Jul 2024, 5:00am
Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police Minister Mark Mitchell. Photo / Mark Mitchell

‘Significantly more prevention work required’: Police Minister warned of hurdles in youth crime reduction target

Sophie Trigger,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Jul 2024, 5:00am

The Police Minister was warned that the success of his flag-ship youth crime reduction target relies on many factors which sit outside the control of the Police.

Ministerial briefing papers, provided under the Official Information Act, reveal official’s concerns that “significantly more prevention work” would be required for the “ambitious” target to be met.

“While Police supports a broad measure on total offending by children and young people, many of the levers to reduce offending or prevent first-time offending sit outside of Police’s influence, including in the care, education, and health environments,” the briefing states.

In April, the Government unveiled a target to reduce the number of children and young people with serious and persistent offending behaviour by 15 percent by 2030.

But two months prior, Minister Mark Mitchell was told if he wanted to achieve these targets:

“significantly more prevention work is required, including using cross-sector mechanisms such as the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan.”

"Targeted and longer-term social investment is likely to have the biggest impact on these offending patterns and Police supports more direct cross-sector work on prevention to assist achieving this measure.”

Mitchell remains confident there is enough investment in partner agencies to help with prevention work, saying he expects agencies to work collaboratively to achieve youth offending targets and provide a whole-of-system response.

“This includes responses from agencies such Oranga Tamariki, Health, Justice, Education, MSD, HUD, and Police.”

Last month the Government announced a new declaration of Serious Young Offenders, and a pilot programme for military-style youth academies.

Police Association President Chris Cahill said too much of the burden of meeting Mitchell’s youth offenders’ target has still fallen on Police.

“Police have a part to play, they will identify these young offenders and work with them and feed them into the pipeline,” he said.

“To do that police need to free up other resources, and I’m still not seeing the change around things like mental health and family harm that are actually going to free up those police resources.”

Cahill said police generally supported the approach of having more frontline officers, but said he wasn’t seeing evidence of investment in prevention services at other agencies.

He was also skeptical the Government’s promise of recruiting 500 police officers, if delivered, would bring down youth crime.

“Extra police, if they’re achieved - and that’s a big if - aren’t the sole answer, it’s got to be turning back some of that demand to other departments and freeing police up to do traditionally police roles.”

Labour police spokesperson Ginny Andersen says the key organisation being flagged by police in its advice - Oranga Tamariki - has had more than 400 roles cut through the Government’s recent savings exercise.

She said Police are increasingly being expected to do more, while partner agencies like Oranga Tamariki and family violence providers, have not seen a meaningful increase in their budgets.

“We can’t expect better results with reduced investment - the outcome is police are left to do it all.”
Andersen said the main investment towards reducing youth crime appears to be recruiting more police, and the Government’s proposed boot camps.

“Just having more police won’t fix this problem alone - we need a plan in place to get involved and prevent earlier on, and that’s what this Government is lacking.”

Children’s Minister Karen Chhour says Oranga Tamariki has a significant part to play in the Coalition Government’s target to reduce youth offending by 15 percent.”

“Two main programmes aimed at doing this are the Fast Track Offending Programme and the Military style academies.”

“In Budget 2024 the Fast Track programme received $7.7 million of funding, with $30.6 million invested over four years. The Military style academies pilot received funding of $5.7 million in Budget 2024.”

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