Ram-raid youths need understanding, not prison

By Tumamao Harawira

Ram-raid burglaries involving children are on the rise and are even being shared on social media.

This week alone Auckland has seen three such burglaries, which has prompted community workers around the city to speak out about issues facing youth in deprived areas.

Some children as young as seven have been arrested recently following ram-raid style thefts, including clothing store Huffer, which lost over ten thousand dollars worth of clothing. But community worker Dave Letele says these acts are nothing new.

"The struggle has always been there for us. I think back with my father even - he burnt down the school when he was nine."

"It's a lot deeper than just ram-raids."

According to MSD figures, one in 20 New Zealand children are known to Police for offending before reaching 14 years old. Boys are twice as likely as girls to offend as children.

Māori children are more likely than non-Māori children to become known to Police as an offender by age 14.

Letele says calling for harsher punishments for youth offenders is not the answer.

"It's not about having knee-jerk reactions, throwing people in jail, and that's going to fix it because let me tell you, jail is not a solution. Jail is not rehab."

In his work with youth in South Auckland, Letele implores the youth to be aware, lest they be lost to the struggles of life.

"This gangster lifestyle that you all believe to be very glamorous, we're telling you there's no brotherhood or we're telling you when the party is gone, there's no one there."