This election, we’re looking at the key issues affecting young voters, breaking down stats on the reality of the situation, what young voters think about it, and later, once they’re all announced, the policies from different parties on the issue.

Let’s look at youth crime.

Youth crime has become a big focus of this election - with National, Labour, and ACT announcing policies to combat what National MP Mark Mitchell described as a “tsunami” of youth crime.

But is youth crime actually getting worse?

Turns out, not really.

The past 15 years have actually seen a dramatic decline in youth crime, which the Ministry of Justice classifies as criminal offences by anyone under the age of 17. 

In 2007, over 5000 young people in Aotearoa were charged for crimes. Last year that had fallen to 1416 individuals - a 78% drop.

The rise of the ram-raid

What has increased in the past few years is the visibility of youth crime, particularly because of the rise in ram raids.

This is when a group of people crash a car into a property to gain access and steal stuff inside.

Police data shows a massive spike in this tactic in the past two years.

Before the pandemic, ram raids were relatively rare and sporadic. But since the end of 2020 they have become increasingly common - with 295 instances in 2021 and 519 in 2022.

(Note: Ram raid is not a category of offence in the New Zealand justice system, but a tactic used in committing the crime of a burglary or robbery. As such, there isn’t currently a way for Police to record the use of ram raid tactics in their report beyond describing it as such. The data above was created by finding keywords in Police reports related to ram raids, and that have been manually verified by an individual.)

Police have found the large majority of the people conducting ram raids have been youth offenders.

Analysing 283 instances of ram raid robberies, the Police found 88% of the offenders were 21 or younger. The majority (59%) were aged between 14-17, and almost a fifth (17%) were 13 or younger.

The policy response

Labour responded to the ram raids in 2022 by introducing a range of “circuit breaker” initiatives.

This included programmes like Kotahi te Whakaaro which aims to stop reoffending by engaging young offenders in education and training.

In the first Leaders’ Debate of the 2023 election, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said three quarters of the young people involved in these programmes had not reoffended.

In July, the Labour government also announced they intend to build two new high-need units within youth justice residences, and stronger punishments for young people who influence others to commit crimes by doing things like posting crimes on social media.

National have said if elected they will reintroduce Young Offender Military Academies, commonly referred to as boot camps, for serious young offenders.

The previous National government attempted this approach with an eight-week programme in 2010. 

The manager of this programme, Chris Polaschek, told 1News the programme had a reoffending rate of 83%.

When challenged on this in the first Leaders’ Debate, National leader Christopher Luxon said he thinks their new programme will work better because it is 12 months instead of eight weeks.

ACT’s proposal to tackle youth crime is to have the administration of youth justice facilities moved from Oranga Tamariki, who is responsible for the well-being of young people, to the Department of Corrections, who run our prisons.

The Green Party and Te Pāti Māori have not announced specific policies on addressing youth crime, but their reactions to other parties' youth crime policies have indicated they would take a preventative approach - funding community-led programmes and addressing poverty.

Keep an eye on Re: News in the weeks before the election - we’ll wrap up all of the parties’ policies on how they propose to deal with climate change.

 And check out our other election coverage:

On trans rights, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think

On cost of living, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think.

On climate change, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think.

On dental health, here’s stats on the situation, and what young voters think.