Children nabbed after Timaru crime spree
Two boys aged 9 and one aged 11 who went on a mini crime spree in Timaru at the weekend were already known to police.
The boys stole an iPad out of a car, kicked cars in the Farmers car park, shoplifted, spray-painted statues at the Timaru Library and then hid from police on the roof of the library.
Timaru Police Youth Aid Constable Jan Gibbs said it was not necessarily a sign that offending was happening at younger ages.
Police were limited in what they could do.
"We will go and talk to their parents and their schools. See what environments they are in and what tools we can offer.
"At that age it could be that one of the kids is a ringleader, getting the others to follow suit," she said.
In New Zealand people were not able to be in the justice system until the age of 14, unless it was for manslaughter and/or murder.
They can be referred to the police Youth Aid programme, where police have some discretion on how they act under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989. Gibbs was unable to say exactly what steps would be taken in this instance.
"We will go and see what's going on at home and see if there is anything that is causing this behaviour. We will be giving the families support where we can."
A Ministry of Social Development (MSD) spokesman said the right agency responded to this situation when it occurred.
"Police have a variety of options available to them when responding to youth offending.
"They will involve Child, Youth and Family as and when required," he said.
MSD was asked what tools it had to deal with child offenders, but did not respond. Nor did it answer a question on whether parents could be held responsible for the actions of their children.
The Timaru Herald