A GISBORNE businessman who faces costs of more than $15,000 arising from three recent break-ins, says the parents of under-age burglars should be forced to foot the bills.
This view has been backed by Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, who says the “warm, fuzzy youth system” is a dismal failure here.
He believes it is time New Zealand introduced work farms, where young criminals can be sent to work in order to repay their debt, first to their victims, then to society.
Five youngsters between the ages of 13 and 14 were caught by police after a break-in at Sequence Surf Shop in Gladstone Road on Sunday night but are too young to be held accountable for the costs of damaged goods and broken windows.
“So that means I’m out $5800 straight away from that one incident,” says shop owner and former New Zealand champion surfer Blair Stewart.
“This is the second time I’ve been hit in a couple of weeks and last time it was around $2000 out of my pocket.”
A burglary to the tune of around $8000 took place at the surf shop in February this year.
“If they are under age, they go through the youth court system and get a slap on the wrist,” says Mr Stewart. “If their age means they are not accountable, the money should come out of their parents’ pockets. They are supposed to be responsible for their children at 10.30 on a Sunday night.”
After the February break-in, Mr Stewart made a call for CCTV cameras to be fitted in the area.
“I have been in touch with city manager Ken Huberts and he is taking steps to push the issue forward. He understands where I’m coming from but we both understand it takes a lot of money to get CCTV cameras installed.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees and in my position, these break-ins put a massive strain on a business that puts a lot into the community here.
“We simply won’t be able to do that if we keep getting massive bills,” said Mr Stewart.
Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar has been appointed to a new committee, tasked with reviewing the youth justice process.
“I totally agree with Blair that parents should be held accountable,” he says.
“Reparation is a tool available in the youth system, but many of the insiders are ‘soft’ and believe youth offending is a natural part of growing up.
“They certainly do not believe in holding these young criminals to account.
“In my role through the committee, I will table it as a glaring example of why the current system is failing,” he says.
The work farm proposal has been blasted by Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman, who says it would “simply reinforce criminal behaviours”.
It is “a good example of what not to do”, he says.
“But these views need to be tested against the evidence around what works,” he says.
“Where a child offender causes significant damage, there should be processes in place to ensure that offenders are held accountable for the harm done and to make some form of reparation.
“The most effective way of doing that is through a process of consultation, such as a restorative justice meeting.
“Each incident is different and a solution can usually be found that fits the individual circumstances of each case. Reliance on legislation and a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach rarely works well.”
He says the idea of a work farm just would not work.
“We should heed the advice of Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, and keep child offenders in school with positive role models for as long as we can.
“That is by far the best way to reduce the likelihood of future offending.”