Introduction

February 14, 2019 Critical Thinking

Introduction:

Juvenile crime is and has been a relevant topic in New Zealand and the world for many years, and I was interested in what, when, where and why juveniles commit crimes, therefore I chose the topic of “Juvenile crime in New Zealand”. My main research inquiry question is “What were the major causes of juvenile crime in New Zealand in the past 10 years?” My key questions are: “How are juvenile offenders sentenced in New Zealand and is sentencing effective for preventing reoffending?”, “What were the most common ethnicity/ies and age/s of juvenile offenders in New Zealand in the past 10 years?”, “What were the most common type/s of crime among juveniles in New Zealand in the past 10 years?”, and “Who are considered juveniles in New Zealand?”

How are juvenile offenders sentenced and is sentencing effective for preventing reoffending?

According to Te Ara’s website, depending on the circumstances, different methods are used to punish juvenile offenders, including: Warnings from the police, Youth Aid officer meetings, family group conferences including the offender and their family, the victim, a police officer and a coordinator, and court cases in the Youth Court if the offender is aged 14 to 16. If the case is more serious, the juvenile offender will be dealt with in the District Court or the High Court. “In 2014, 43% of offenders were dealt with through alternative action by Police Youth Aid (for example, written apologies, community work, reparation and counselling.” In the “Youth Justice Indicators Summary Report” written by the “Ministry of Justice” in April 2018, it discusses becoming part of the Youth Justice System, being part of the system, and reappearing in the system. I think that the point of view of this source is not opinionated and unbiased and I also think that it is a reliable source because there is a date of publishing included, and the spelling and grammar are correct. This source is a government source, therefore it is less likely to be biased.

According to justice.govt.nz’s website, almost one-third of youth were given orders due to their offending. “In 2017, youth were most often charged with burglary (25%), theft (19%) or robbery (15%) offences as their most serious offence”. In 2017, and 600 youth (32%) were given a sentence or order. The most common out of these were ‘monetary, confiscation, or disqualification’, which accounted for 22%, (or 129 youth) of all youth crime in New Zealand in 2017, and also, ‘supervision or community work’, which accounted for 19% (or 111 youth) of all youth crime in New Zealand in 2017. ‘Supervision with residence’ (96 youth), ‘education and rehabilitation programmes’ (12 youth), ‘supervision with activity’ (87 youth), are included as other orders. Out of the small number of youth who were convicted in court and received an adult sentence to serve fully (36 youth), most of them were given home detention or imprisonment for highly serious offending.

Brinley McIntosh, author of the HMA article “Reducing recidivism rates among young offenders”, discusses the attributes of juvenile offenders, group work among juveniles, CBT with juvenile offenders, and inspiring juvenile offenders. I think that the point of view of this source is not opinionated and unbiased and I also think that it is a reliable source because there is a listed author, there is a date of publishing included, and the sources in the website are cited.

According to Bennett (2009), “Current literature around young offenders and recidivism rates shown that in NZ there is a core group of young offenders that continue to reoffend despite going through the youth justice system.” This tells us that sentencing is not effective for preventing reoffending in New Zealand. To tackle the recidivism rate, in 2010, the Young Persons and Their Families Amendment Bill put forward and applied changes to the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act (1989) to make way for harsher sentences (either residence or community based) for young offenders as well as their families. This amendment elongated the length of time young offenders were able to be sentenced to supervision and/or residence orders, and also made way for requested parenting education programmes for both: parents who are young offenders, and also, parents of young offenders. They needed to do this to inhibit offending and also reoffending. This tells us that these individuals come from violent and/or poor etc. households, which may influence their recidivism greatly.

According to McIntosh, the amendment also accentuated the need for mentoring, rehabilitation, and support for young offenders as well as their families, which are used as preventative measures towards recidivism. Subsequently, there was a powerful push towards developing and implementing programmes that lower recidivism rates of young offenders by aiming at criminogenic needs, and also promoting and teaching prosocial skills. McIntosh claims that there is only a small amount of controversy in the literature that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and its variants are the most effective treatment for reducing recidivism among youth offenders. McIntosh also claims that the most economical and effective way to give interventions to young offenders in residential facilities is in a group layout.

I disagree with this statement because to me, imprisonment seems like it would be the most effective preventative measure for recidivism among juvenile offenders. I believe this because it would essentially “keep juveniles off the streets” and give them less opportunity to re-offend. I also think that when more juveniles are involved in training, education, or employment, the less likely these individuals are to offend, as “idle hands are the devil’s

playthings”, meaning if an individual is not occupied, they have a higher chance of getting into trouble.

According to an infographic summary by the Ministry of Justice, in 2017, the majority of juveniles (78%) had charges proved, most acted in accordance with plans agreed at Family Group Conferences, and a third of them were given orders for their offending, including 129 confiscation, disqualification, or monetary orders, 111 supervision or community work orders, 96 supervision with residence orders, 87 intensive supervision or supervision with activity orders, and 36 adult sentences for serious offending. The number of juveniles charged in court has decreased by 25% since 2013 and by 5% since 2016, (possibly because in recent times juveniles have fewer opportunities to offend, which may be because they are involved in training, education, or employment), and only accounted for under 3% of all individuals charged in court in 2017.

What were the most common ethnicity/ies and age/s of juvenile offenders in New Zealand in the past 10 years?

According to https://www.justice.govt.nz, “there have been very large reductions in the number of… young people aged 14 to 16 who offended (…down from 14,183 to 5,188 young people).” I assumed that the offence rate of youth (aged 14 to 16) would have increased between 2009/10 and 2016/17, but I was wrong. The offence rate has actually decreased, to my surprise. In 2016/17, the most common ethnicity for juvenile offending was M?ori with 642 cases, the second most common was Pasifika with 256 cases, and the least common was European/Other with 131 cases. In 2009/10, the most common ethnicity for juvenile offending was M?ori with 1,555 cases, the second most common was Pasifika with 654 cases, and the least common was European/Other with 504 cases. From 2008 to 2017, the percentage of M?ori juvenile offenders rose over that decade, from 49% to 64%. The number of juveniles charged with theft, burglary, or assault has been decreasing since 2013, which may be surprising to some, but the number of juveniles charged with robbery has increased since 2015 to 2017, which may not be surprising to some. This could be due to the stigma in New Zealand regarding juvenile crime. It has been said that the youth justice

system is ‘racist’ towards M?ori, which I agree with. Regardless, the number of juveniles charged has decreased significantly among all ethnicities over the decade spanning from 2008 to 2017. The changes are as follows: M?ori changed from 2,421 to 1,197 individuals (a decrease of 51%) European changed from 1,749 to 426 individuals (a decrease of 76%), and Pasifika from 501 to 174 individuals (a decrease of 65%). Theft is different to robbery because theft is taking property that doesn’t involve interaction between people. An individual simply takes property that they do not own. Comparing robbery and theft, robbery is where an individual takes property that involves interaction between people but involves intimidation, coercion, and/or force. Burglary, in comparison to both robbery and theft, is where an individual enters a residence or building while intending to commit a felonious crime, such as theft. Burglary doesn’t require interaction between individuals or property to be stolen. From 2008 to 2017, the number of juveniles charged in court had significantly declined (from approximately 160 per 10,000 juveniles), to approximately 60 per 10,000 juveniles), and the overall juvenile offending rate decreased 63% between 2009/10 and 2016/17, from 761 per 10,000 individuals to 285 per 10,000 individuals. It may be thought that the rate of juvenile crime is increasing but in fact, the rate is actually decreasing, which I am surprised about, and may be to other people’s surprise. During that time, the decrease in the offending rate has been much larger for European/Other (74%) than for Pasifika (61%), or M?ori (59%). The age split of juvenile offenders has greatly stayed the same since 2013, whereof the offenders aged 14-16, 24% of those were 14 years old, 32% were 15 years old, and 41% of those were 16 years old. I am not surprised about the age ratio.

What were the most common type/s of crime among juveniles in New Zealand in the past 10 years?

In New Zealand in 2016/17, the percent by offence division if the most common type/s of crime among young people aged 14 to 16 are as follows (in descending order): The highest percentage of youth crime was theft at 26%, ‘other’ at 20%, unlawful entry and/or burglary at

16.6%, causing injury at 13.2%, public disorder at 10%, property damage at 8.5%, and finally, robbery and/or extortion at 5.7%.

I think that theft is so high because many youths have chances to thieve, rather than have opportunities to commit other crimes. Although theft is less serious than, for example, violent crimes because people’s lives are not necessarily in danger throughout a theft, they are during a violent crime.

The “Youth Justice Statistics 2014/15” (about England and Wales), composed by the “Youth Justice Board/Ministry of Justice” on the 28th of January 2016, discuss, for example, moving through the Youth Justice System, proven offences by juveniles and measures of crime underwent by juveniles. According to Youth Justice Board/Ministry of Justice, In England and Wales, in the year ending March 2015, the main types of juvenile offence were; violence against the person (24%), theft and handling (17%) and criminal damage (12%). Additionally, there were 2,000 sexual offences in the same year in which a young person was cautioned or convicted, which accounted for 2% of all juvenile offences.

Who are considered juveniles in New Zealand?

According to Te Ara’s website, regarding the law, young people are those who are aged 14–16. “…They can be charged and prosecuted for an offence and dealt with by the youth justice system. Those aged 17 and over are treated as adults in the general court system.”

I think that this age is too young to get treated like an adult and go to prison with adults and I think the age should be raised to 18. I assumed that the offence rate of youth (aged 14 to 16) would have increased between 2009/10 and 2016/17, but I was wrong. The offence rate has actually decreased, to my surprise.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, by answering the previous inquiry questions, I have been able to answer my main research inquiry question: “What were the major causes of juvenile crime in New Zealand in the past 10 years?”. Research shows that juvenile crime is caused by financial hardship (Scientific studies have shown that it is not just a juvenile’s brain that turns them

into a criminal, but also poverty that changes an innocent juvenile into an inveterate criminal. If teens see that others such as their friends are more financially stable and richer than them,
so they eventually begin to look for illegal ways to tide themselves over, and once they start offending, they are usually small crimes such as theft to accomplish their daily costs, but as time goes on, they re-offend and continue to re-offend. Peer pressure is another major cause of juvenile crime as surveys conducted show that teens that are friends with criminals have a higher likelihood to become eventually a criminal themselves, as it is reasonably natural for the individuals to be influenced by the criminals. Teens prefer to commit crimes in groups because it can be more exciting and also lowers their likelihood of getting caught offending.

I believe that one way to combat peer pressure and also juvenile crime is to make sure that juveniles’ friends are not negatively influencing the juveniles.

Additionally, a lack of care from family is another major cause of juvenile crime as neglected juveniles are more likely to become criminals because they become violent and angry when they lack love and affection that they feel they deserve from the family. They then use their negative energy to commit crimes. Furthermore, bullying is another major cause of juvenile crime. Bullying is a crime and it also fuels other crimes. Multiple studies show that juveniles who bully others tend to become criminals later in life. Abusive behaviour encourages juvenile crime and juveniles who demonstrate abusive behaviour or are in a group of friends who demonstrate abusive behaviour wind up committing crimes. A few cases have been reported where the victims of bullying become criminals only for the purpose of retaliating on society. Lastly, drug and alcohol abuse are also major causes of juvenile crime. It is a crime to take drugs or drink alcohol as a minor, and it also causes various other crimes. Juveniles’ judgement is impaired when they abuse drugs or alcohol, which increases the likelihood of committing crimes, such as property damage or public disorder. When a juvenile becomes intoxicated, their judgement and reasoning become obscure, causing them to commit a crime that they may never have wanted to commit originally. In 2017 specifically, the highest percentage of youth crime was theft at 26%, ‘other’ at 20%, unlawful entry and/or burglary at 16.6%, causing injury at 13.2%, public disorder at 10%, property damage at 8.5%, and the lowest percentage was robbery and/or extortion at 5.7%.

I think that the age of 17 is too young and too harsh to get treated like an adult and go to prison with adults and I believe that the age should be raised to 18.

The research indicated that overall, depending on the circumstances, different methods are used to punish juvenile offenders, of example, including warnings from the police, Youth Aid officer meetings, family group conferences including the offender and their family, the victim,

a police officer and a coordinator, and court cases either in the Youth Court if the offender is aged 14 to 16. But for more serious cases, the juvenile offender will be dealt with in the District Court or the High Court. Almost one-third of youth were given orders due to their offending. Studies show that in 2017, the most prevalent charges given to juveniles were confiscation, monetary, or disqualification. Research suggests that overall, sentencing is not effective for reoffending, because studies show that in New Zealand there is a main group of juvenile offenders that continue to offend regardless of being dealt with by the youth justice system. Research shows that in 2017, the most common ethnicity of juvenile offenders in New Zealand was M?ori with 642 cases, the second most common was Pasifika with 256 cases, and the least common was European/Other with 131 cases. Compared to 2009/10, the most common ethnicity for juvenile offending in New Zealand was M?ori with 1,555 cases, the second most common was Pasifika with 654 cases, and the least common was European/Other with 504 cases. Research also shows that in 2017, the most common age of offenders in New Zealand was 16 years old (41%), the second most common age was 15 years old at 32%, and lastly, the third most common age was 14 years old at 24%. These statistics did not surprise me. Additionally, compared to 2013, the age ratio has largely stayed consistent. In 2016/17, the most common type of youth crime in New Zealand was theft at 26%, the second most common type of youth crime was ‘other’ at 20%, and the third most common type of youth crime was unlawful entry and/or burglary at 16.6%. In comparison to England and Wales, in 2015, the most common type of offence was violence against the person (24%), followed by theft and handling (17%), and then criminal damage (12%). Lastly, during my research, I have discovered that juveniles (regarding the law) are those aged 14–16.