South Taranaki Star
OPINION: Last month I spoke about crime statistics for the area and the improvement made over the past two to three years in certain crime categories.
One of the key catalysts to reducing crime and the impact that it has on a community is by investing more time into addressing lower-end risks with our youngsters.
You are no doubt aware this intervention begins at home and not only involves parents and the wider family group, but also the community they live in, and in particular schools, sporting groups, clubs and peers.
The traditional policing approach when interacting with youth was to deal with them after they had committed a crime and process them through the justice tunnel. Aside from this we also delivered educational programmes in schools with a view to raising awareness of safety and the consequences of choices we make as children, maturing into young adults.
With changes in society and more of a focus on preventing offending and reoffending at the outset, along with reducing levels of victimisation, police are applying more effort into working closely with youth to bring about positive changes not only in their current behaviour but also their aspirations for the future.
To improve on this we need to understand where we have been and then integrate what we have learnt into developing strategic alignment with our key community partners and the youth themselves with a view to improving their safety and wellbeing.
One of the most common offences committed by children and young people is theft. Eventually this type of crime progresses to more serious offending if not addressed.
Theft and in most cases shoplifting is linked to truancy and petty offending during the day. It is therefore important that we collectively put extra effort into reducing the opportunity for these offences to occur, and fully implement a sound alternative response to addressing any identified offending of this nature.
Apprehensions have reduced among all age groups of children and young persons, particularly those aged between 14 and 16 years of age.
Of note, most successful youth apprehensions are dealt with through alternative processes as opposed to the judicial system.
An important concern to note however is the increase in violence, particularly with young females.
We have seen the YouTube clips and probably identified with this type of behaviour. This is a national concern and not isolated to certain areas.
Usually evidence-based approaches to dealing with youth-related problems have the greatest potential for addressing youth offending and victimisation.
Police working alongside case managers tend to have a greater impact when applying early intervention with child offenders. This means targeting at a very young age in order to change the behaviour.
However, the reality is that police and key government agencies cannot do this alone. It is imperative that we align our approach with other community groups, both government and non-government in order to achieve a positive outcome with child offenders and victims.
Stratford has already developed a positive and successful youth intervention that has resulted in a number of positive outcomes in regards to reducing youth offending and improving the behaviour and attitude of young offenders.
The positive interaction that has occurred between police, other agencies and youth has had the greatest level of impact in terms of improved outcomes.
Our challenge is to transfer this approach to South Taranaki with the view to working closer with youth and the community to help improve the current levels of criminal youth offending and victimisation.
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