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Hawkins Speech: Youth Project Leaders Conference

Speech Notes

Minister of Police - Hon George Hawkins

New Zealand Youth Project Leaders Conference
Wednesday 10th April 2002

E nga manu
E nga reo
Rau rangatira ma
Tena koutou, tena koutou
Tena tatou koutou

Good morning everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to open your conference this morning. As many of you will be aware, I have a strong interest in the welfare of young people in this country. It is an inescapable fact that almost everyone who was ever a teacher, retains that interest and commitment to the well being of young people, long after their teaching days are over.

You are a special group of people, the ones who are working to change lives in a very practical way. I am looking forward to talking with you and hearing first-hand about some of the new initiatives that you are involved in and the progress you are making.

The Government remains committed to supporting our youth and ensuring that those in the most need are able to access the help they need.

The perception of young people in New Zealand is not always positive. In fact, media reporting of their activities is dominated (nearly 45% of all news coverage) by items about criminal offending, and the highest proportion of the coverage involves incidents of violence. Such reporting unreasonably increases the visibility of youth offending in relation to other youth activities, youth victimisation and crime trends in general.

The statistics behind some of these stories have prompted the Government to act to ensure that our young people are not forgotten. In fact, since coming to office we have overseen a significant improvement in the services available for young people, including:
- Youth at Risk positions funded in Whangarei
- Two youth aid constables for Downtown Auckland
- Youth at Risk programme at West Auckland
- Four new Youth Aid sergeant positions at Counties Manukau and a Youth At Risk programme at Clendon. There has been a marked drop in the number appearing in Youth Court and in the case of Clendon the numbers being referred for Family Group Conferences has dropped by half.
- Youth Development Officer in the Waikato.
- Youth at Risk programme in Rotorua
- Youth At Risk programmes in Taumaranui, Wanganui and Levin.
- Youth at Risk positions in Porirua and Naenae.
- Youth Services Senior Sergeant position Christchurch.

To this end, as most of you will be aware, the Government has established a task force to consider youth offending. Headed by former Principal Youth Court Judge, David Curruthers, the task force has been charged with examining the range of services and programmes available to address youth crime. I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Minister of Justice will be releasing the government¡¦s Youth Offending Strategy soon.

As professionals working in this field, you will all know that, there is no quick fix solution to the problems facing youth of this country. Research has shown that that most of our young offenders have been let down or abused by parents, family, school or authorities and it can take many years, even a lifetime, to put right the difficulties that follow from neglect and abuse.

All youth are vulnerable and at risk. They are more often victims than they are offenders. Young people face a range of risks to their personal safety and growth as well-adjusted human beings, who are confident and able to contribute constructively in society. Some of those risks, such as child abuse, are not always obvious, but have disastrous consequences if they continue to occur or are left undetected.

In June 2000, the Government promised $24 million to crack down on burglary and youth crime. The benefits of that commitment are now starting to take effect.

I have had reports that in some areas, for example, Counties-Manukau, the number of youth crimes is not growing and in fact has stayed the same in the past five years despite the population in that age group doubling.

The government has also been pleased to continue supporting the Youth at Risk of offending programmes that have their origins in a 1997 crime prevention package.

Youth At Risk programmes
The fourteen original Youth at Risk of Offending programmes are based on a model designed by Senior Constable Nick Tuitasi from in Mount Roskill. The model involves identifying and targeting children and families in need, with a particular emphasis on recidivist offenders or those who are at-risk of becoming offenders. Some programmes have also adopted a mentoring approach, where adult volunteers are matched with at risk youth with the intention of becoming an appropriate role model for that child.

These original programmes reached approximately 420 youths in 14 locations nation wide but with the extension that has occurred are now reaching many, many more.

The programmes focus on preventing entry to a criminal lifestyle and to the criminal justice system. They are designed to target three broad objectives:
„h To improve education and health outcomes for youth at risk of offending.
„h To improve the ability of communities to help their young people at risk of offending; and
„h To reduce the rate of re-offending by youth.
And this has had a significant impact on the lives of many young people, their families and their communities.

The focus of police objectives is specifically on achieving successful outcomes for the young people on the programmes as opposed to young people in general:
„h To reduce or prevent offending.
„h To develop a strategic approach to choosing participants and the way the programmes run.
„h To improve the ability of families to support their young people who are on the programmes.
„h To encourage the integration of police programmes with other agency and community initiatives.
„h To be a demonstration project for the investment of police resources into proactive intervention.

With the exception of some of the South Island programmes, whose clients are mostly New Zealand European, the majority of the clients are Maori males, aged between 7-17 years.

The Youth at Risk of Offending programmes are still undergoing a process and outcome evaluation, which I believe you will be discussing later in the conference.

The initial indications from the process of evaluation are very favourable and are expected to match the success of programmes such as the Tauranga programme, Te Aranui.

Te Aranui, has produced some dramatic results. Preliminary recordings of the number of offences committed by the children on the programme prior to involvement and since joining have been impressive. The majority of their children (16 out of 18) had committed offences prior to joining the programme (some as many as 30 offences). Since being involved with Te Aranui, only four children had re-offended when evaluated.

Other examples are more anecdotal but are still just as compelling. The following is a typical case study of the type of progress made by children on the Youth at Risk programmes around the country:

Client B was referred to the programme by the police Youth Aid Section. He was considered a major offender previously, engaged in parental abuse, was the leader of a gang, was known for carrying weapons and has been in care outside the home. There has been a background of domestic violence within the family. Since entering the programme, he has committed one burglary, one assault and one incident of graffiti. He is now completing his first course in music and has influenced most of his gang members to take courses. His mother has started to support the work of the programme and has become more empowered and able to deal effectively with problems at home.

The Youth at Risk of Offending programmes have given members of the community the chance to become involved in finding solutions for the problem behaviours of the young people concerned and you as the implementers of these programmes have much to be proud of.

Since becoming Minister of Police, I have had the opportunity to visit youth at risk programmes, and I have been very impressed with the excellent work that is happening. Almost a year ago I went to the graduation of a wing from the ¡§Turn Your Life Around¡¨ programme in Avondale, and I was blown away by the enthusiasm and promise of the young people I met. From the accounts I heard, these young peoples lives really had been ¡§turned around¡¨, and I know that you are all making that happen for young people across the country. Thank you for your hard work.

It is also important not to lose sight of the good work being done by general duties, crime and road police who deal with thousands of young people every year. But as co-ordinators working day by day and hour by hour with some of the most difficult cases, you have the knowledge and insights to impart and to raise the youth consciousness of the organisation as a whole. In this regard you will also be aware of my announcement just two weeks ago on the reintroduction of a modern cadet scheme aimed at attracting further young people to policing. Once this scheme is up and running, it will provide an avenue for many young people to become involved in policing much earlier. I believe this will have a number of positive effects, not the least being the facility for more youth-to-youth interface.

Some commentators have got the idea that under the cadet scheme we will have 17 year-olds walking the beat. I am pleased to say that nothing could be further from the truth! The whole point of the modern cadet scheme is to take young people and nurture them, give them life experience, show them what policing is about before they undergo the standard training at the Police College. Our recruitment standards remain as high as ever, and the minimum age to be sworn as a police officer will remain at 19. So while you will see young people observing what police work is about, you certainly won¡¦t be seeing 17-year olds police constables on the job!

As said at the outset, I know that working with young people can have its own intrinsic rewards despite the inherent difficulties.

I wish you success with your conference this week. I am sure you will all benefit from the opportunity to share ideas and experiences.

No reira
Tena tatou katoa

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