Aotearoa/New Zealand’s coalition government is implementing Young Offender Military Acadamies to crack down on youth offenders that make up a significant chunk of retail crime cases across the country.

Childrens Minister Karen Chhour said the military-style academies will be supported by the creation of a new Young Serious Offender Designation.

“We intend for a pilot for a military-style academy to be operating from the middle of this year,” Chhour said.

“It will have a military-style component as well as a rehabilitative and trauma-informed care approach to help these young people turn their lives around and reduce their risk of reoffending.”

Chhour said children-focused department Oranga Tamariki (also known as the Ministry for Children) will lead and deliver the programme, working with providers where they have appropriate capability and expertise, and alongside other government departments.

“I’m confident this programme will deliver the real change needed for many youth offenders. It will show them actually, there are consequences for their actions, but also that with a disciplined and structured environment they can turn their life around.”

The outcomes of the new Young Offender Military Academies being initiated by the government will be watched closely by retailers across Aotearoa/New Zealand, Retail NZ confirmed.

“Retail NZ members are facing increasing rates of crime, putting both their employees and the public at risk, as well as threatening the financial sustainability of retail businesses,” Retail NZ CEO Carolyn Young said 

“Just today (March 6), it’s being reported that there have been five petrol stations robbed in the last four days in Auckland. Retail staff should not have to go to work each day wondering if they will be attacked.”

Retail crime is a significant issue in New Zealand, impacting more than 92% of retailers. Retail NZ released a Crime Report in October 2023 that found the cost of retail crime to its members was well over $2.6 billion.

Young said retailers are dealing with threatening, violent and unpleasant customers, who are trying to steal or damage their property. Organised crime groups stealing to order, drug addicts and youths looking for notoriety on social media are driving the spike in retail crime.

While youth offenders are responsible for only a portion of violent retail crime, Young said it is important to try to deter youth from further offending in future.

“We are keen to hear more details about the approach that will be taken by the Young Offender Military Academies and the expected outcomes.”

Retail NZ is also calling on the government to adequately resource police to deal with retail crime, and to unclog the court system so that offenders are dealt with promptly.

“Ultimately, retail crime results in higher costs and more security barriers for all customers and consumers.”

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