The Tron: City of fu­ture or teen crime?

Waikato Times - - Opinion - Max Christof­fersen

OK, is it just me or is this be­com­ing a Hamilton ‘thing’? We all know the buzz­words thrown at Hamilton: We cringe, suck it up and move on.

Chlamy­dia, cow town, Claude­lands Events Cen­tre, V8s, Hamilton City Coun­cil, DHB, ya­daya­dayada…yeah yeah I know. Been there done that.

Hamilton folk re­tal­i­ate with ‘‘at least it’s not Palmer­ston North’’ and then go about their daily lives.

But I’ve no­ticed a new bunch of Hamilton buzz­words and de­scrip­tions turn­ing up at the bot­tom of com­ments on Waikato Times sto­ries and columns re­cently.

And they’re not the usual ones. They’re new and it seems peo­ple from else­where have been watch­ing what’s go­ing on in the Chlamy­dia Cow Capi­tol of the coun­try.

And they’re throw­ing new buzz­words at the Tron.

Peo­ple are talk­ing about Hamilton be­com­ing a violent lit­tle metro cen­tre that seems to be over­rid­den with wannabe teen gang­sters.

The new buzz­words are all about young, violent crims on the streets of the Tron.

Crime is the busi­ness of Hamilton and teen crim­i­nal busi­ness is good. It’s violent and it’s high pro­file.

Hamilton has a new na­tional brand and it ap­peals to the very peo­ple that don’t read the mar­ket­ing brochures pro­mot­ing life in the new sub­di­vi­sions and green fields of the Waikato.

It was a Waikato Times head­line that started me think­ing things had changed. What fol­lowed re­moved what­ever am­biva­lence I felt about the mean streets of my sleepy home town.

The head­line that woke me from my slumber was: Teenager robs teen at knife­point in Hamilton.

That head­line and story should start Hamilton city lead­ers wring­ing their hands in col­lec­tive angst when Hamilton is be­com­ing branded as New Zealand’s teen crime cen­tre.

So I did the Google rounds and looked for more re­ports of Hamilton crime sto­ries and teen ar­rests. I found more:

Pre-teens rob woman’s hand­bag on Hamilton street; Five teens, in­clud­ing three 13-year-olds ar­rested in Hamilton af­ter in­ci­dents; Two teens ar­rested over Hamilton shoot­ing; Teenaged trio ar­rested af­ter dairy rob­bery with ham­mer; Teen ar­rested over Hamilton dairy rob­bery; Fa­tal Hamilton stab­bing: Teen girls ar­rested; Two fe­male teens ar­rested, charged with ar­son at Hamilton school.

What the hell is go­ing on? Have I been asleep while this crime wave of teenage Hamilton thugs has taken over the streets of Hamilton?

I must have missed the grow­ing trend of Hamilton teens nick­ing cars, car­ry­ing knives, burn­ing schools and threat­en­ing peo­ple on the quiet city streets I grew up on.

So here’s the thing, I bet these kids are ‘known to po­lice’. They will come from fam­i­lies with sea­son pass re­turn tick­ets to the Hamilton cop shop be­cause they only know crim­i­nal life.

They will have track records of mul­ti­ple fam­ily group con­fer­ences and end­less rounds of di­ver­sion and coun­selling for their back­ground.

It’s the cops I feel sorry for. They are con­sis­tently let down by the ju­di­ciary, de­spite claims to the con­trary by Chief Dis­trict Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue in her re­cent re­but­tal of my col­umn.

Fur­ther ev­i­dence suggest­ing the ju­di­ciary is ut­terly out of touch is the case of drunk driver and re­cidi­vist of­fender Gavin Hawthorn. He has more than 60 con­vic­tions, in­clud­ing bur­glary, as­sault, dis­or­derly be­hav­iour and possession of cannabis.

Twelve of the con­vic­tions are for drunk driv­ing and four peo­ple have been killed in crashes when he was driv­ing.

Porirua Dis­trict Court Judge James John­ston sen­tenced him to six months home de­ten­tion and 180 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice for his 12th drink-driv­ing con­vic­tion. He also was dis­qual­i­fied from hold­ing or ob­tain­ing a li­cence for two years. Is this ev­i­dence of our jus­tice sys­tem work­ing for the safety of the com­mu­nity?

Why was this re­peat of­fender and drunk driv­ing killer not in­car­cer­ated for life?

The courts are hand­ing off young of­fend­ers to im­po­tent youth agen­cies, mean­while on the streets of the Tron the prob­lem is grow­ing for all to see – teens get­ting in­volved in violent crime that is es­ca­lat­ing.

Who takes re­spon­si­bil­ity? Who among the Hamilton based gov­ern­ment agen­cies and sup­port net­works has the re­sources and ca­pa­bil­ity to deal with the teen crime that will only get more violent and have in­creas­ing neg­a­tive im­pact on brand Tron?

Here are a cou­ple of things that might help: Aban­don Youth Aid – its not work­ing. It’s a soft op­tion. Send young violent of­fend­ers to the Army for boot camp train­ing on first violent of­fence. Re-es­tab­lish Borstal for se­ri­ous of­fend­ers.

Hamilton has to face the re­al­ity the city brand is in trou­ble. If young of­fend­ers con­tinue to grab na­tional head­lines for violent crime, the Hamilton city brand is go­ing to quickly erode from be­ing the fam­ily city of choice to the city to avoid.

City mar­ket­ing is at a cross­roads. Con­nect the crime dots like I did and there is an un­der­belly of em­bed­ded teen crime cul­ture work­ing on the city’s streets.

The Tron – city of the crim­i­nal fu­ture.

Crime is the busi­ness of Hamilton and teen crim­i­nal busi­ness is good. It’s violent and it’s high pro­file.

masses.

It should be noted that this new pol­icy is rad­i­cally at odds with the ser­vice pro­vided in the past. For thir­teen years, with only one, no­table ex­cep­tion, posties have done their job, as­cend­ing the 21 steps as they would any in­cline in a sub­ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. The Hamilton cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict is flat, of­fer­ing no nat­u­ral chal­lenges of the moun­tain­ous va­ri­ety.

I would have thought that a few stairs here and there would pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing point of dif­fer­ence. They cer­tainly would not kill any­one, least of all the ro­bust types en­gaged in what was once be­lieved to be a no­ble, worth­while pro­fes­sion, if not a call­ing akin to that of the re­li­gious. We are not talk­ing Sisy­phus and his rock here. Af­ter all, how do their col­leagues cope travers­ing the hills of Welling­ton or Bald­win St in Dunedin? Per­haps they breed ’em

Richard Swain­son is a Stuff columnist

MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

An­other day an­other dairy rob­bery in Hamilton.

CHRIS­TEL YARDLEY/STUFF

NZ Post pol­icy trumps all at the foot of Richard Swain­son’s 21-step Hamilton stair­case.

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