Crime, politicians respond: Dr Pita Sharples

Dr Pita Sharples, Maori Party co-leader responds to readers' suggestions for tackling crime.

Readers: Be tougher on criminals, introduce harsher prisons, give police greater powers, allow juries to be given more information, work better with youth.

Sharples: The root causes of crime are probably similar in most communities: families under stress, a lack of hope for a better future, a lack of control over your own destiny.

When it comes to crime, prevention is better than cure. The first step is for people to take ownership and control of their streets and communities, and to make a stand against anti-social behaviour and crime. Only the people themselves can do that, and Police and government agencies need to support local initiatives.

At another level, we all need hope for a better future, and the tools to create it - by looking after each other, building up whanau and neighbourhood support networks, helping each other out, and providing good role models for our children and young people. Learning and education is so important in transforming our future. Belonging to a sports team or kapa haka teaches excellent social skills as well as physical and cultural well-being.

If parents or whanau members go along and watch, that's even better.

Change begins when we believe we can make a difference. Instead of blaming someone else for something bad that's happened, and demanding more police and tougher punishment, ask ourselves what we can do to stop a similar thing happening again. And then take that step - get to know your own neighbours, join a community group, find some way to help out. It enriches our own lives.

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