Police minister Poto Williams says the recent spike in youth crime is distressing and requires a "whole of society" approach to solve.
It comes after Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers told the Herald on Sunday the Government must step in after at least 45 children or teenagers have allegedly been behind eight crimes such as break-ins and ram raids reported over the school holidays.
Twenty-three people are facing charges in the District Court or Youth Court, or have been referred to Youth Aid. The other half are still on the run.
"There is no doubt the recent spate of crime involving young people is distressing," Williams said.
"But this is an issue that goes much wider than police and needs a whole-of-society approach."
Williams referenced work, co-sponsored by police and the Ministry of Social Development, on behalf of the social sector on gangs that included a youth focus.
"The work on youth is specifically drawing on things that work well, such as the Youth Gang Action Plan, and what we know about why youth join/undertake gang activity."
In the past two years, 109 new police staff had been employed to work in the youth space.
The holidays started with two teenage boys being seriously assaulted during a party at a Remuera home on the Thursday before Easter and ended yesterday with a group of youths ram raiding an Icebreaker clothing store near Auckland Airport.
Eivers said whānau struggling with the cost of living, the impact of Covid-19 and rangatahi not being at school, or kids being at a loose end could be behind the crime wave.
Oranga Tamariki has said most of those involved in the recent spike are children it is already working with.
"Imagine if you come from a family where there isn't much money, where there isn't any food in the cupboard, where dad might be in prison, or there's domestic violence," Eivers said.
Despite these crimes happening during the school holidays, she suspected the young people involved had not been at school for a long time.
The Government was set to announce a package to tackle stubbornly high truancy levels. More than 40 per cent of students do not go to school regularly - an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015, and there are huge disparities for Māori and Pacific children and lower-income households.
Eivers said these children deserved the opportunity to thrive, rather than be put on a path to prison.
She said the Government needed to direct community leaders to work together with the likes of iwi, local police officers, and Oranga Tamariki social workers to find a solution.
And affected communities needed to ask was how these young people ended up in such a position, Eivers said. She said it was hard enough being a teenager at the best of times.
Over the past two weeks young teens allegedly broke into cars on Kāpiti Coast, a 7-year-old was involved with a break-in at a Hamilton shopping centre, and a group drove through an Auckland mall, ram raiding stores.
Three people holding hammers allegedly ran out of a Grey Lynn dairy late one night and into a car with a 12-year-old girl in the driver's seat. The vehicle later slid into a tree. Police found a duffel bag full of stolen cigarettes.
Eivers acknowledged those involved needed to be held accountable for their actions but she said the answer wasn't about punishing them.
"We don't want this happening and we don't want this sort of offending to continue."
Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers said the reasons young people were involved in these types of crimes were complex.
He said contributing factors included children being disengaged from schooling and their families, social media influence and the value of stolen goods.
Chambers said the issue wasn't new and pointed to a spike in recent months of young people involved in such crimes in areas of the country including Tāmaki Makaurau and Waikato.
"Police take this offending seriously and we are actively investigating and responding to these incidents when they are occurring."