The number of young people ending up in court has decreased in recent years, but in the past year more than 1300 young people aged 10 to 17 have still been charged with theft, assault, burglary and robbery - and most of them have been male.
One of these boys is James. A bright young sports-obsessed kid who, by the time he was 12 years old, was already entrenched in the ‘ram raid’ scene and involved with at least six raids.
Children's Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers says the best solution to our youth crime problem is a holistic approach, where whānau and community – including iwi, police and other agencies – work collaboratively to wrap support around youth and whānau who may be at risk.
"The focus needs to be on prevention to ensure the safety of these young people and the public, while restorative justice provides accountability, and healing for all involved," Judge Eivers says.
"Everyone in the lives of these children has a role to ensure they are safe, and that's about checking in on them and supporting them to make good decisions.”
This became the plan to help James. He was all set to take part in a mentoring program until funding was cut – leaving him and many others without the support they needed. But the team at Otāhuhu Police Station had an idea, based on an old proverb - “give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”.
They set up a new mentoring program called Blue Reels, using the fundamentals of fishing as a medium for teaching rangatahi valuable life skills like communication, patience, and resilience – in the hopes to help prevent youth offending.
Based on Te Ao Māori elements like kaitiakitanga (looking after our land and oceans), whanaungatanga (positive connections and friendships) and manaakitanga (looking after each other and the community), the program was designed to help young people replace their desire to commit offences with a passion for something positive, with the idea that it would reduce or stop their offending altogether.
There was just one problem – this program needed funding too, and fast. That’s when the Kindness Collective came on board. Chief Executive Sarah Page knew their unique approach to community-led support could help so they committed to supporting the program for 12 months in a bid to continue to help more rangatahi like James.
Blue Reels has had some extremely encouraging results, setting some of our high-risk youth offenders back on the positive path - including James. By the end of 2022, after being on the program for six months, James was thriving. He received multiple awards at his end-of-year school prize-giving and has since successfully transitioned into his new high school.
James is just one of many success stories to come out of the Blue Reels program. In 2023 and beyond, the team can’t wait to expand the program further to help even more rangatahi just like James.