Police National Manager of Youth Services Superintendent Steve Christian rejects suggestions that the youth justice system is in disarray.
Mr Christian said that the comments made in the Police Associations "Police News" highlighted just one side of the issue.
Superintendent Christian said he was taking the opportunity occasioned by news media reporting the facts of what was happening in the sector and what the longer-term statistics were telling practitioners about some positive aspects of what is happening.
Early intervention critical in reducing youth offending
Initiatives are in place to support the focus on early intervention to reduce the level of youth offending.
Youth apprehensions have remained consistent at about 22% over the last 9 years, even while the population has grown. Police apprehensions of children and young people aged between 10 and 16 increased by no more than 4.8% between 1996 and 2001, a period when the total population in that age group rose more than 8%.
"This shows that the systems and processes of the Children Young Persons and Families Act work," said Mr Christian
"At the frontline there is a lot of excellent work being done by practitioners and managers in the Youth Justice area by all agencies. This good work rarely gets acknowledged.
Having said this we acknowledge that there is room to improve. The Youth Justice Task Force identified a range of issues and in 2002 the Youth Offending Strategy was adopted to address these and provide a blueprint to focus on reducing the level of youth offending. One of the initiatives was to establish Youth Offending Teams (YOTS)."
There are 30 Youth Offending Teams around New Zealand which bring together managers and practitioners from Police, CYF, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health to develop ways to improve service to all aspects of the
Youth Justice system. The emphasis is on a team approach across agencies to make the system work. Many of the issues raised recently by commentators on youth offending are being dealt with by local YOTS.
"The work being done by these teams is beginning to bear fruit," said Superintendent Christian. "Police are actively working with other agencies to address areas of poor practice which still exist in some places."
The offending rates per 10,000 can be misleading. Police statistics are based around the volume of crime. For example, one 14 year old picked up for 20 theft ex cars is the equivalent of twenty 14 year olds committing the same offence. Some young offenders are committing large numbers of dishonesty offences and some only commit one.
"Work is being done to improve our data collection and statistics to get a more accurate indication as to the effectiveness of the work being done and provide continuous evaluation of the processes."
"There is no magic bullet, however we support the concentration on early intervention in the future. These changes take time and the first step is to implement our own National Youth Policing Plan that sets out the future direction of Youth Policing. That plan will be complete early in 2004."
Current initiatives 2003-2004:
- Community Youth Projects (12 locations) jointly funded with Crime Prevention Unity to deliver services to at risk youth.
- Youth Development Projects (21 locations) holistic wrap around services to re-shape families and break the cycle of child offending.
- Methamphetamine Drug Education package for wider school communities delivered by police.
- Marae based methamphetamine drug education supported by police.
- Keeping Ourselves Safe programmes facilitated by entertainer Henare Oâ€™Keefe.
- Truancy initiatives (multiple locations) which encourage partnership between police, school child and family/whanau to re-engage children in schools.
- Blue Light Activities. Police and Community delivering opportunities for adventure and entertainment in a safe, controlled environment.