Dannevirke child shoplifter not the norm


The 10-year-old boy arrested in Dannevirke last week for shoplifting is a rare case, says the youth worker to whom young offenders are referred to.

The youngster was caught shoplifting items of clothing from The Warehouse in Dannevirke and when spoken to by police, he became violent and abusive kicking out at the attending officers and the patrol car causing some damage to the vehicle.

Tararua REAP youth worker Tony McDonald said he very rarely deals with such young offenders and instead it is more teenagers who he works with.

"This is a rarity. We don't get too many offenders this young. Normally, parents deal with the younger children and the ones who are referred to us, are 13 years or over."

Youngsters caught offending are not put through the court system. They are referred to youth aid and youth workers such as Mr McDonald who works with the family and the youth to deal with the problem.

"Quite often, there will be a family group conference which we will attend and help them to engage in a programme," he said. "Some of the teens we see are repeat offenders so we already know them or their families which makes it easier to relate to them and build up a rapport.

"Half the problem is most of these children I work with come from challenging backgrounds. They may be the product of broken homes or have parents who work more than they should. The other problem we find is some parents don't have the skills needed to help their children and we have a number of courses such as positive parenting available for them. A lot of the issues could easily be solved if parents just put a bit of time or effort in."

Mr McDonald said every child, circumstances and offending is different so each case has to be evaluated separately and an individual plan put in place to help the person make good choices.

"Everyone makes mistakes and I find telling them off, talking down to them or preaching is not effective or helpful.

"We let them know we care and we are here to help and support them so they have a good outcome. Boundaries, rules and respect are discussed and we can put in place programmes such as anger management if required.

"They have to realise there are consequences to their actions.

"Businesses can be left out of pocket and people get very upset at their property being defaced. I also try and make them understand that while they are young, they won't face court but if they are older, then they will end up in court and possibly with a criminal record which won't help them in the future."

Youth such as the 10-year-old are made to do restorative justice which can vary from cleaning up rubbish or washing off graffiti.

If the stolen products are not recovered by the store, offenders are asked to make reparation for the goods and in the case of youth, Mr McDonald believes this should fall on parents.

"Parents should be held responsible for their children's actions," Mr McDonald said. "There is probably no way a 10-year-old can pay for the goods so the parents should be made to pay and then they can find ways for their child to pay them back."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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