By Amy Williams of RNZ
The Children's Commissioner says a spike in young people behind the wheel in ram raids is being created by families living in a "total state of hopelessness".
Judge Frances Eivers says child welfare and criminality are social issues and increasing poverty cannot go ignored.
Her comments come on the day of new ram raids - including one in which a digger was used to smash through the front of a petrol station in Wainuiomata and another in which three teenagers and a 20-year-old were arrested after fleeing the scene of a burglary north of Auckland, ramming police cars and driving on the wrong side of the road on the motorway.
"We'd be very surprised to find that any of these young people came from one of the leafy suburbs in Auckland where they've got plenty of food in the cupboard, where their disposable income is good, where they've got money not just to pay the rent or mortgage but to buy extras," Eivers said
She said there was likely nothing extra in the households of young offenders.
"More often than not in the mix there are other stressors such as alcohol, family violence, all of those things which go to create a total state of hopelessness.
"If we want to stop ram-raiding then we need to look at why they're doing that in the first place it's all about early intervention."
The latest victims of ram raids are questioning what happens once young offenders are caught, with some calling for tougher consequences.
Dorothy Gallagher has lived in Wainuiomata - the scene of one of the latest ram raids - since 1962.
"I just hope that the culprits are aware of what they've done and are shaking in their boots," she said.
Meanwhile, in the central Auckland suburb Kingsland, a building manager said it appeared offenders who tried to ram raid an Auckland dairy on Sunday night were very young.
"The actual takings from these efforts were probably confectionery, I don't believe there were a lot of cigarettes on site."
Police are investigating the incident.
The manager estimated repairing the damage would cost more than $20,000, and questioned what the consequences will be for the young offenders.
"Probably be part of our youth justice system, which will be a wet bus ticket."
As for the four arrests following ram raid north of Auckland, police followed the group in a car from Silverdale, over the Harbour Bridge on the wrong side of the road and out to Westgate.
A police car crashed in Ponsonby during the incident.
A wider context to consider
Eivers said local communities were part of the solution.
"Locking away young people's not going to teach them anything. They're just going to end up angrier than they are already, it's going to institutionalise them, it's going to give them a fast-track to prison and nobody wants that."
The South Auckland Wellbeing Board brings together 13 agencies to support vulnerable children and whānau.
Programme director Anne Wilkie understood the frustration from business owners but said children deserved a second chance.
"Fourteen is your cut-off time for kids to get a second chance before they go into that justice system so we tend to wrap more alternative actions around the kids, try and make them accountable for their behaviour but also trying to give them a second chance."
She said there was a wider context to consider.
"You can't just go in with a lens on the children without making sure that you're helping to support the environment that the kids are in, in any way that's going to make a difference."
Eivers said with such approaches, ram raids could be prevented.
The children and teenagers involved in ram raids and burglaries deserved a second chance, she said, noting she had met many young people who wanted that support in her previous work in the youth justice system.
"They're as intelligent as any young person their age that you might meet. It's just that they don't have any money in their house, they might not even have a house."