National | Crime

‘We need to stop labelling our kids as criminals’ - at-risk youth worker

A spike in youth crime has seen ram raids, street brawls, car theft, and shoplifting across the country. Police reports show a 400 percent increase in ram raids in five years, with 76 percent of those being caught under the age of 18.

But what’s behind the spike, and how does Aotearoa best respond to the problem?

At-risk youth worker at Te Whānau o Waipareira Jacqui Harema (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hāmoa) says there are a lot of reasons why young people decide to pursue crime.

According to Harema, stress, mental health problems and belittling of these young people is what leads them to pursue criminal activity.

“Due to the absence of their parents, these young kids have to look after their younger siblings. That can also contribute to why young people have these thoughts of doing bad things.”

Harema says, “We as Māori need to stop labelling our kids as criminals, as antagonists, whatever else.

“One of the initiatives is Te Whānau o Waipareira Youngatira. Its purpose is to stick with our kids and help them on a path to fixing their mistakes. The hopes and aspiration for the initiative are to push and help young people to reach their potential.”