Ram raiding teens should face tougher penalties, dairy owner says

By Katie Scotcher of RNZ

An Auckland dairy owner wants teenagers who ram raid businesses to face tougher penalties.

It comes as the Government signals support is on the way for shops that have been targeted.

Like many other shops in Sandringham, Kshitij Vatsa’s dairy is boarded up.

A month ago a group of teenagers smashed their way into his store, stealing armfuls of cigarettes and leaving behind thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“It was devastating. I saw the store totally smashed and then again the whole counter was messy, the chocolates were on the floor.”

He doubted the ram raids will stop unless further action is taken.

“They need to feel a bit scared that if they do it again, there will be some consequences. If there are no consequences, they will keep on doing it again.”

The Government has signalled help is coming for businesses such as Vatsa’s.

According to police, in the 12 months to October last year there were 283 ram raids around the country, more than five a week.

Eighty-eight per cent of those were by teenagers or even younger kids.

Police Minister Poto Williams said a group of ministers working on addressing youth crime is meeting today to decide what to do in response.

“We’ve got a little bit more work to do, particularly in consulting small businesses. Ram raids are a serious issue and we need to deal with that.”

The commitment from Williams was made as part of a pre-Budget law and order package which sees more than $560 million invested into police over four years.

The funding will be spent on tackling gangs, gun crime, and organised crime, setting up a new unit to oversee the firearms register and other legislative changes and boosting tactical response training.

“A record investment in police goes to show we take this seriously. Our communities tell us what they need, they need us to deal with gun violence, they need us to deal with gangs. This is exactly what this package is going to deliver.”

Fifty million will be used from next year to maintain the current level of police staffing as the population grows – one officer to every 408 New Zealanders.

Williams was confident the jobs would be filled.

“You just have to look at the lists of people wanting to come into training to know that it’s a very popular career.”

Politicians have squabbled over the number of new police recruits since the previous coalition-government promised in 2017 to increase frontline officers by 1800 in three years.

ACT leader David Seymour said politics should be removed from policing.

“We need to focus more on the quality and equipping of police, rather than just raw numbers. We’re really thrilled the government has taken on the same view as us on this.”

Seymour was dubious about whether extra funding for police would help reduce crime.

National’s Mark Mitchell doubted it would.

“The reality of it is, it doesn’t mean there will be tougher consequences for offenders when you’ve got a government sending a message that they are soft on crime.”

The Government also unveiled more funding for Corrections, just over $198m for rehabilitation programmes and funding for 500 extra staff.

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