Getting it right from the start

Prevention is always better than cure and that’s the aim of  taking a whole of government approach to addressing the factors which lead to crime.

Justice Minister Simon Power and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said there will be an initial approach on four areas:

Antenatal, maternity, and early parenting support.
• Programmes to address behavioural problems in young children.
• Reducing the harm caused by alcohol.
• Alternative approaches to managing low-level offenders, and offering pathways out of offending.

A Ministerial Meeting on the Drivers of Crime in April, hosted by the Ministers reached a broad agreement that the drivers of crime are complex, social, inter-generational, and require early intervention.

Power said:

“Though responsibility for reducing crime sits with justice-sector agencies, many of the tools to address the drivers of crime are in other sectors, such as health, education, parenting support, housing, recreation, and economic, social and community development.

“The focus will be on improving outcomes by tackling fragmentation, ensuring ministerial and chief executive co-ordination and leadership of the work programme, improving value for money, and improving the relationship between government and the community.”

 Sharples said:

“Far too many Maori end up in our youth justice and prison facilities, wasting the most productive years of their lives. Far too many Maori are victims of crime. And far too many Maori children grow up in households and communities disrupted by crime and punishment.

“Anything we can do to promote Maori control over their own destiny, community strength and resilience, and pro-social behaviour by Maori will reduce crime overall, and help improve the social and economic position of Maori in the long term.”

Mr Power said the factors that drive crime also contribute to other negative outcomes, such as being a victim of crime, poor health, early school leaving, and unemployment.

“This means efforts to reduce crime cannot be pursued separately from efforts to address other social harms, but need to be part of a co-ordinated response across sectors.

“Several other Ministers are already leading work that could make a significant contribution to addressing the drivers of crime.

Celia Lashlie got in to trouble for describing a young boy who would grow up to be a murderer. But poverty, poor parental education, drug and alcohol abuse  and other factors which give children a poor start in life also predispose them to crime.

Taking a whole of government approach from before children are born won’t be easy nor will it be cheap. But it’s an important part of any crime reduction strategy.

Getting things right from the start to prevent children getting in to trouble is preferable to trying to get them on a more positive pathway once they’re in the criminal justice system.

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