Mentor programmes tackle problem kids

By Imran Ali


A Whangarei youth and community leader believes that behaviour mentoring programmes for juveniles could be the answer to growing police frustration at serious criminal activities committed by youngsters between 10 and 16 years of age.

Police have recently been called to a number of burglaries at licensed premises in Whangarei where alcohol was stolen, as well as break-in of houses and cars last month.

In Tikipunga, police identified a group of about 16 children from all over Whangarei, aged 10 to 16 years, who were behind a number of burglaries and could face more than 50 charges between them.

Otangarei Trust head Martin Kaipo said he had dealt with a few juveniles lately in which Child, Youth and Family (CYF) had been notified.

Behaviour mentoring programmes, run by the Otangarei Trust, were one way of dealing with youth offenders but he called on parents and families to be more responsible by monitoring the movement of their children.

He ruled out the possibility of gangs recruiting juveniles to commit crime.

The police area commander for Whangarei/Kaipara, Inspector Tracy Phillips, said juveniles had been involved in a "ridiculous" number of offences around the district.

"Some are as young as 10, some have been placed in homes that are not secure, while others decide to visit their mates who are on a curfew.

"In the last couple of nights, we've been picking up children wandering around in town and it's very much a case of parents needing to know where their children are," Ms Phillips said.

Some children had been discovered by police jumping out a window or walking out the front door of homes that had been burgled.

With longer days and children not kept busy enough, they loitered around and got involved in serious crime, she said.

In one case, police arrested a 12-year-old and his two 15-year-old friends in relation to three burglaries and a car stolen overnight on October 7-8.

Ms Phillips said two of the accused were again caught breaking in to the same premises after teaming up with new recruits.

On Wednesday two boys, aged 13 and 14, were arrested in Kamo in relation to a fire that tore through 100 metres of mostly scrub and grass.

Two young Kamo graffiti vandals, aged 12 and 13, were made to clean up their handiwork and litter after they defaced a toilet block on Wednesday. One was found with a small quantity of cannabis.

Mr Kaipo said the law needed to make parents responsible because they should be aware of their children's whereabouts.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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