Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
Police figures published by RNZ last week on the number of cars stolen around Kāpiti was gobsmacking. A total of 290 in February, 310 in March, and another 240 up to April 20.
It comes amid national attention on youth-related crime using stolen cars, especially the bizarre and dramatic ramraiding of shops and theft of goods. The knee-jerk reaction in Kāpiti is that all these car thefts were by young people.
The police data, as published by RNZ, does not give this information so it's only an assumption. More alarming was that these figures followed police caught six youngsters in Waikanae attempting to steal cars. Two were aged 12 and two aged 13. It included a 14- and a 15-year-old.
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One can understand the alarm that Kapiti could be on the verge of copycat ramraids. It's been widely noted that the use of social media app TikTok was fuelling this spread. The fact that Ministry of Justice data shows a more-than 60 per cent reduction of youth crime over the past decade has not dampened this public alarm.
I first heard of the use of TikTok by youth stealing cars to show off their exploits from the police late last year. In recent months, my office has been alerted about an increase in boy-racer activity around Kāpiti. I have written about this problem. Now that the police figures have revealed the huge numbers of stolen cars, and the possibility of young people being significantly involved, it may be useful to review this.
Boy racers are largely a car-owning culture. It's highly likely that the kids stealing cars are going on high-speed joyrides through residential roads and are being mistaken as boy racers. I have also seen tyre-burn marks along stretches of the Kāpiti Expressway. It's also possible that such dangerous behaviour could escalate to ramraids. The police have rightly recognised that the underlying sociology-economic problems cannot be managed solely via police solutions. They have rightly advocated a wraparound approach involving other relevant government agencies and community providers.
The nature of the problem, especially given the very young age of those involved, requires a two-prong approach: a policing approach to tackle the immediate danger and a second strategic long-term approach to help identify and manage the socio-economic factors fuelling this.
Kāpi-Mana police have expressed support for this approach.
On a related matter, I was at a ceremony at the Gazley car yard on Rimu Rd on April 28 to unveil a new car for the Waikanae Community Patrol. I take the opportunity to thank the businesses that have supported the project and the volunteers who staff this community service to be the eyes and ears of the police.
In speaking at the ceremony, I noted that during these challenging times where we are facing the uncertainties of the pandemic, the existential threat of climate change, and now the impact of the war in Ukraine, there is a greater need for a personal sense of safety and security. The presence of the police and the sight of the three community patrols in Kāpiti help secure this, especially among our significant senior and more vulnerable residents.