Youth crime is no worse in Whangarei than other centres in New Zealand and has remained static for the past two years, police say.
"We have peaks and troughs in certain areas but in general it has been fairly static," Whangarei Youth Aid Sergeant Rob Nordstrom says.
Youth offending - offences committed by those under the age of 17 - accounts for about 24 percent of burglaries, thefts from cars and unlawfully taken vehicles in Northland, Mr Nordstrom said. No statistics were available for violent crime.
However, back in May a police report to the Whangarei District Council showed a 15 percent increase in juvenile offending referrals to Youth Aid.
Youths under the age of 17 were responsible for 50 percent of dishonesty offending, 19 percent of violent offending and 10 percent of sexual offending in the Whangarei district.
In the report, Whangarei and Kaipara police Area Commander Paul Dimery also said there had been a noticeable increase youth offenders aged 10 to 13.
Youth lawbreaking appeared to be tracking a similar growth in the overall youth population in Northland.
Those aged between 10-24 are expected to account for 23.3 percent of the population by 2010, Mr Dimery said.
Mr Nordstrom said about 20 percent of the youth population commits about 80 percent of the crime, and only 10 percent of referrals to youth aid are repeat offenders. Acting Whangarei/Kaipara area controller Inspector Murray Hodson said the root causes of youth offending were complex. Many of the young people aligning themselves with "youth groups" - commonly known as gangs - in the city came from dysfunctional families, didn't identify with anything and often had no idea what they were getting involved in.
"It's in their formative years. It's whether parents teach their kids right from wrong in early childhood."
However, he believed alcohol abuse was a major contributing factor in crime.
"We have a culture where alcohol is acceptable. Unfortunately when young people obtain alcohol and drink excessively that's where the problems occur. But what we do know is a lot of the problems that happen in town on a Saturday night are caused by people over 18 because they're drinking excessively," he said.
"It probably wouldn't happen if they weren't under the influence of alcohol."
Police are also concerned at the number of children being relocated from South Auckland to Northland.
"Anyone who is from South Auckland culture that is being relocated to Northland for whatever reason could bring problems with them," Mr Nordstrom said.
"What happens in South Auckland is a precursor to what happens in other areas later on."
Northland police have several initiatives targeted at youth, including a big brother service, a youth education service, campus cops in schools and the youth aid service.
Whangarei police have also beefed up their presence in the central business district. Other police initiatives included a youth development programme aimed at early intervention for at risk youth.
- VIOLENCE ON VINE:
"A lot of our offences occur under the influence of alcohol and Vine St is our main seller of alcohol at that time of the morning, so clearly we are concerned." - Whangarei police Area Commander, Inspector Paul Dimery after the death of Anaru Haki Tamihana, 19, in Vine St on July 16.
- Some of the violent incidents reported on Whangarei's street of shame:
May 24, 1990: Nigel Cawte, then 21, shoots nightclub bouncer Gary Griffin dead outside Pips Nightclub - now named Heaven. Cawte is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
July 20, 2002: A Whangarei man knocks his partner unconscious after finding her drinking in a Vine St bar.
July 12, 2003: A man is left with a 15cm knife wound in his back after being assaulted by men who had insulted his disabled friend.
February 23, 2004: A man is struck twice on the head with a baseball bat in the Vine St carpark.
May 30 2004: A man is concussed and has his nose broken in an unprovoked attack in the street.
July 3, 2004: A man is left with a badly fractured jaw after being assaulted.
July 19, 2004: A man assaults four people - including a bouncer - in a Vine St nightclub.
December 9, 2004: A man has his jaw broken after being stomped and kicked in Vine St.
December 16, 2004: A man is badly assaulted and a police car attending the violence is pelted with bottles.
June 16, 2005: A 20-year-old male assaults a group of people, including a police officer, in Vine St.
September 16, 2005: A man loses teeth and gets a badly swollen eye after being hit by a baseball bat or crowbar.
September 22, 2005: A man is seriously assaulted while visiting Vine St nightclubs.
June 4, 2006: Eight men in their early 20s are arrested after an alcohol-fuelled fight outside nightclubs in Vine St.
July 16, 2006: Anaru Haki Tamihana, 19, dies after an alleged assaulted in Vine St.