Locking up children and teenagers involved in a spate of ram raids and car thefts in the Bay of Plenty is "not the answer".
That's according to people who work with at-risk and vulnerable youth, and who are backing a call from police for a community-wide response to the problem.
Police have said young people - some just 12 years old - are mainly responsible for a recent spate of car thefts in the Bay of Plenty and a tripling in local ram raids over three years - a theft method that has been in the national spotlight.
On Sunday the Government announced $550 million in funding for more frontline police, a new firearms unit and a package to help high-risk businesses protect themselves from ram raids.
Frontline youth workers, however, say many of the problems that lead young people to crime start at home.
The Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust works with more than 300 youth aged 9 to 24 a week, helping them develop into well-rounded, responsible community members.
Trust chairman Craig Nees said it was often not a young person's fault when they get involved in crimes.
"What we're seeing is a growing divergence of young people from very disadvantaged backgrounds becoming more disconnected from structured society, in their homes, and in their schools."
Not all the youths the trust worked with had been in trouble with the law or had been referred by government agencies.
"Relaxed discipline" had a lot to do with why some acted out and made poor decisions, he said.
"When there is no one at home to supervise them ... guide them and nothing for them to look forward to ... they look for excitement and support elsewhere. And a lot of the time that is anti-social in nature."
Nees said communities needed to set boundaries of behaviour for young people.
"I think the answer is not to lock up our kids who have crossed the line but to create better options for them and show them what they need to do to achieve their potential.
"We [the community] all should be responsible for our community members, especially those kids who are disadvantaged in life and those at risk of falling between the cracks."
From its Youth Central hub on 13th Avenue, the trust offers six programmes including boxing/fitness training, and mentoring; Imagine, Believe, Achieve for pre-employment development; outdoor adventure-based education and fitness; and Pasifika youth wellbeing.
Nees said these helped young people learn discipline, get physically and mentally fit, develop self-confidence and change their outlook on life through access to positive role models and mentors.
Te Aranui Youth Trust works with vulnerable youth aged 7 to 14 years in the Western Bay of Plenty.
Funding and administration manager Tanya Grimstone said they worked with police and the Ministry of Education to provide interventions such as mentoring, life-skills courses and a weekly hearty breakfast.
She said the children they helped included those who had experienced poverty, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse and other social challenges such as past trauma.
"A lot of these kids are the products of their environment but not always, some have fallen between the cracks and need a range of interventions and a lot of awhi [support]."
Many had not attended school for some time and were "anxious" about returning.
"Not all of these children have been involved in criminal activity but some are on the fringes and that is why these interventions and our support programmes are so crucial."
Grimstone said they had a core group of about 30 children and worked with about 100 over the year. The trust generally worked with a child for up to three years.
She said recent research showed long-term mentoring of vulnerable youth had the best outcomes, including offering them lots of awhi and aroha (love).
"They get that in spades with us."
Krista Dixon, founder and executive director of charitable trust Live For More, works with young people aged from 17 to 25, often over several years.
The trust helped high-risk young people to "find freedom from their trouble past" and to live positive and fulfilling lives.
Its programmes include surf therapy, group therapy, one-on-one clinical and life-skill sessions, and cultural sessions.
Dixon said the majority of its young people had been involved in crime and anti-social behaviour. Many came from dysfunctional families and had experienced past traumas.
Most were kicked out of school between the ages of 11 and 14, she said.
"People often say these kids have fallen between the cracks but most of those we work with were born in the cracks. They never had a fair chance or fair start in life from birth."
Dixon said often the public saw the problem but not what caused it.
About 86 per cent of trust clients grew up around gangs and were exposed to drugs, alcohol and other negative influences, she said.
"Putting these young people in prison is not the answer ... If people knew the full backgrounds of some of these kids and young adults they would bite their tongues."
A Bay mum praises free youth mentoring programme
The mother of two young adults who attended the Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust's Imagine Believe Achieve programme said she cannot speak highly enough about the programme and those involved in mentoring her children.
The mother, who spoke on the condition they were not identified, said the changes in her children since graduating from the programme were "amazing".
"It's an awesome programme and I wish more parents had the same opportunity to take advantage of the help that the Bay of Plenty Youth Development Trust has given my children and our family."
The programme helped teach her children a lot about themselves boosted their self-confidence, set goals and strive to achieve what they really wanted out of life.
The mother said her son and daughter started getting into trouble in their early teenage years and her son, in particular, was regularly wagging school, smoking dope, getting into fights, was angry, and viewed going to school as a total waste of his time unless it was a hands-on lesson such as doing some woodwork.
"My son refused to listen to me and my husband and he became very closed down with us and thought he knew best. He is a 'no-fear' type of kid ..."
"He was really struggling and needed help to set him on the right path.
The mother said her daughter was also wagging school and smoking dope, and the trust agreed to accept her into the programme as well.
Fortunately, her children did not get in trouble with the law before the trust accepted them into the "transformational' values-based programme, she said.
She said the programme leaders were able to quickly make a close connection with her children and helped them figure out the goals they wanted to achieve.
"Since completing the IBA programme, my son, in particular, has changed before my eyes into a young man who is totally different from the way he was acting. He's far happier, very enthusiastic about his job and has a more positive outlook on life."
The mother said her children were granted exemptions to leave school by the Ministry of Education and her son now had a full-time job working in the automotive industry after doing work experience at the business facilitated by the IBA course leaders.
"His boss is so impressed by my son's enthusiasm and standard of work that he has offered him the chance of an apprenticeship later this year if continues on the same path."
Her daughter was now attending a pre-employment training course.
"It's awesome that the trust staff do what they do and amazing that the course is free. My husband and I cannot thank them enough."