Action plan targets troubled youth
Troubled tweens are committing small-time crimes in Panmure and community leaders want to nip the problem in the bud.
A group of about 20 youngsters, ranging from eight-years-old to early teens, often loiter in the town centre as night falls.
They intimidate pedestrians, occasionally sleep rough and commit minor offences like tagging, breaking into cars and lighting fires in bins.
In early August a member of the group assaulted a man in the Panmure Library.
But instead of banishing the youths Panmure residents are asking how they can help.
Library manager Aubrey Kirkpatrick says staff receive complaints about unsupervised children in the library but the answer is not as simple as chucking them out.
The children causing disruption are under-age which limits the actions of the police.
Many of the teens are known to staff but threatening to call their parents doesn't have any effect, Ms Kirkpatrick says.
"We're particularly torn. Often it's dark and we know they're not going home.
"They're in that invisible age group where everything glides off them and if parents won't respond there's not much we can actually do."
A taskforce to combat the issues has been formed out of the Tamaki Community Liaison Group for Policing and Security and met last week to formulate an action plan.
Panmure Business Association manager Chris Sutton says youngsters loitering in the town centre have been a problem before but they eventually moved on with the help of the community.
The library has always been a "safe haven" for youngsters as it is warm, brightly lit and has computers, she says.
"Most of it is minor behaviour but it sends up warning bells that we need to just do something now before it gets bigger," she says.
"It's not a good problem but there's a lot of people saying: ‘Hold on, we care'. That's the good part."
Senior Sergeant Graeme Porter says the area's community patrol volunteers help the police to monitor petty crimes.
"Each year a new group comes through of young ones starting things like tagging.
"It's like they're flexing their muscles in the crime world.
"The community patrols free us up to deploy staff elsewhere. It's like playing three-dimensional chess. We can use them as another guardian of the area."
Tamaki Community Liaison Group for Policing and Security chairwoman Josephine Bartley says an answer could be increased community support and activities for youth.
The taskforce is a strong group made up of residents, churches, Child Youth and Family, police and community patrol members, she says.
"There are kids who just hang out and there are the other kids who cause the trouble. The offences that the kids are committing could escalate if they don't have some intervention now."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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