If people are old enough to commit ram raids, they are old enough to wear an ankle bracelet, according to Act party leader David Seymour.
It comes after the announcement of National’s “military academies” proposal to target juvenile delinquency.
Speaking in Hamilton today, National Party leader Christopher Luxon pointed to the increase in ram raids across the country as an example of the growing problem.
“Unfortunately what we have seen since 2018 is a fivefold increase in ram raids across the country. There is a ram raid every 15 hours in New Zealand,” he said.
National has presented its plan to combat juvenile delinquency which includes four key elements.
Part of this is a military academy for young offenders which will be administered by the New Zealand Defense Force and other community providers.
They would target young people between the ages of 15 and 17 who could be sentenced to appear by the courts for up to 12 months.
“The thing is, these military academies for young offenders are going to be a total circuit breaker. They are there to provide intense structured programs including schooling, mentoring, drug and alcohol treatment, but in a very, very disciplined environment,” Luxon said.
The other two policy areas focus on fighting gangs and empowering community groups to “break the cycle of delinquency”. Electronic monitoring was another option mentioned.
Seymour said he welcomes the crackdown and his party is “pleased” that National has clarified its position on youth crime.
He said: ‘If you’re a serious offender, if you’re breaking the law you get an ankle bracelet, if you’re old enough to ram raid maybe you’re old enough to be electronically tracked’ .
He said in a perfect world there would be no smash and grabs and no anklets, but people are being “terrified” across New Zealand by children as young as 10.
“This [ankle bracelets] means we know where you are, if you go to school, if you break your curfew, if you appear at the site of future crimes.
“It’s a practical escalation on the side of the government against young offenders escalating against law-abiding New Zealanders.”
Seymour said “real cruelty” gives young offenders no consequences until they enter the adult justice system.
“And then people ask why they didn’t have consequences earlier so they could learn, right now we treat them with kid gloves until it’s too late and then we put them on in an adult prison.”
Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson told the media today that training camps will fail and National is only ‘warming up’ old policies.
“It’s a policy that we know doesn’t work and the idea that just warming it up again somehow represents new thinking is ridiculous.”
“Training fitter, faster criminals doesn’t work.”
When asked if he thought it was a way for Luxon to get votes, Robertson said he believed it.
“It’s a populist response to a serious problem, it’s complex, we all know it’s complex, which is why it requires multiple interventions to support families and change the lives of these young people.
“That won’t happen by sending them to training camps that have been shown to fail.”
He said it is an “abject” failure of policy and an abject failure of thought.
“I actually think it paints the inexperience of Christopher Luxon that the best he can do is warm up to the remnants of the previous national government.”
He said the policy is a “failure” of Luxon’s management.
Justice Minister Kiri Allan agreed with Robertson, saying the proposed policies have proven ineffective.
“There’s no better way to grow fitter, faster, better, better-connected criminals than tossing them all together in a military camp to eventually form fully-fledged national networks.”
Allan said the policy will continue to create new victims and a path to crime.
The Greens react
The Green Party also opposed the proposed policy, with MP Golriz Ghahraman calling it “embarrassing”.
Ghahraman said New Zealand and young people who commit offenses deserve better.
“What we know of young people who are detained for crimes is that they overwhelmingly have just experienced severe trauma, i.e. domestic or sexual violence, and that 90% have a learning disability.
“The stats are really, really clear, the research is there and we know what to do to stop them from committing a life of crime and we know these aren’t boot camps.”
She said National prioritized its “tough on crime” image over the long-term safety of victims and communities.
“I think it’s embarrassing for the National Party, I think what they’re doing is dragging out failed policies, what’s next – caning or electroshock?”
“New Zealand frankly deserves a credible opposition,” she said.
Party co-leader Marama Davidson called National’s politics lazy, saying she wished they did something that actually works.
“The politicians are lazy, they whistle and they’re not going to interrupt the intergenerational trauma that’s happened and that’s why I’m really, really outraged about it.”
Youth advocate Aaron Henry has expressed concerns about how the youngsters were branded as serious offenders.
“You know that we are talking about children between 10 and 17 years old.”