Shot in arm for youth crime initiatives

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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It is about time the Government provided assistance to combat youth crime, a South Canterbury Neighbourhood Support spokesperson says.

That wish could soon be granted after the Government announced this week it would distribute $400,000 nationwide to groups trying to reduce youth crime.

The fund will support community-based youth justice initiatives which are innovative and not eligible for government funding from more conventional sources.

Neighbourhood Support South Canterbury co-ordinator Denise Langrish welcomed the concept, but had yet to come up with any ideas on how some of the money could be used in the district.

She is part of a small team of workers who have spent countless hours cleaning Timaru of graffiti. This week was no exception.

The group has cleared at least 15 properties of graffiti in recent days, mainly in the Marchwiel area. In many cases, property owners clean it up themselves but some people were not able to, mainly due to health or age.

Ms Langrish said it was about time more young people were held accountable for such damage.

"Under 17 [year-olds], they think they are pretty bullet-proof really, don't they?"

She strongly believes "if you do the crime you have to do the fine". She questioned what joy any young person would get out of tagging buildings with graffiti.

"We do want to keep our city as clean as possible and the best deterrent is for us to clean it up as quickly as it happens, so report it to the police and Timaru District Council as quickly as [you] possibly can," she said.

Associate Justice Minister Chester Borrows has welcomed applications from groups wanting a share of the $400,000.

"We're asking communities to step up and get creative."

Nationally, the number of young people appearing in youth court dropped by 19 per cent between June 2011 and June 2013, he said.

The latest government initiative aims to reduce that even further.

"This fund will encourage community groups to try new approaches that might make an important difference for some of our most vulnerable young people," he said.

"Experience tells us that small local projects, driven by people who know the kids in their community and what they need, can sometimes yield huge gains."

Applications close on February 14. Successful grants will be awarded in mid-2014.

Grant applications may be made at gets.govt.nz.

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