While youth crime rates continue to fall in Rodney, drugs are presenting a growing issue for young people in Warkworth.
From January to July this year, crime involving youth aged 10 to 19 years dropped 12 per cent in Rodney compared to last year.
However, Warkworth Police youth aid officer John Williams says drug taking is getting worse and is seeping into younger age groups.
“Drugs are my biggest hate because I see the damage they do to kids, especially as their brains are developing,” he says. “There are 12-year-olds in this community doing drugs.”
He says the use of harder drugs is exacerbating the issue and he is dealing with pre-teens doing drugs like P.
Springboard founder Gary Diprose says easy access to drugs is part of the problem as a lot of young people tell him it isn’t hard to obtain substances.
“A number of our older teens are taking P and this makes them very hard to work with because they lose the ability to think rationally,” Gary says.
Rodney MP Mark Mitchell agrees that supply is the biggest issue, both at a local and national level.
“Gangs are some of the biggest distributors of drugs and, as a government, it’s our challenge to shut them down,” Mr Mitchell says.
“In terms of dealing with youth drug use, I believe community-driven initiatives are the best solution.”
Sen. Constable Williams says there are already good support networks in place to solve this issue and that early intervention is the key.
“The earlier we can deal with children that are potentially at risk, the greater chance we have of reducing the overall problem.
“Drugs damage their way of thinking so the later we get to them, the harder it is to help them come clean.”
He says groups like Springboard, as well as local schools, are very pro-active in addressing the problem.
“David Macleod (Mahurangi College principal) is open about drug problems within the school and we have a good grasp of who we need to help.
“Schools have a great opportunity to influence their students so it’s important that they keep working on this issue.”
A recent Youth Action Group meeting, involving police, Springboard and other youth-related bodies, supported the involvement of social workers in schools.
“Unfortunately, because we have a low crime rate, we don’t get allocated as much funding as some areas that have implemented this strategy, but it would assist the early prevention of issues.”
There has also been an increase in female offenders and a more concentrated group of offenders.
“Girls take up more of my time now than boys and are committing more high-level crime,” Sen. Constable Williams says.
“I’m also seeing fewer small offences like shop-lifting, but those who are offending are doing it more consistently.”