This week I was shocked at the level of damage and brazen disregard for people caused by a gang of youths smashing up three shops in my Mangere Bridge neighbourhood.
When I see such naked and pointless aggression used against hard working Kiwi families struggling to do the right thing it troubles me deeply.
These young fellas, after smashing shops up early in the morning and intimidating staff, made off with a paltry $20. All that violence for $20 bucks? That’s desperation and the desperation makes me pity those young fools who think this is the solution to their desperation.
Some will say that we need to send these young men to prison to teach them a lesson, my experience tells me the only thing prison teaches is how to be a more damaged human being and a far worse criminal.
This attack in my neighbourhood wasn’t the worst this month. Many dairies and alcohol stores have become a target of violence. Too often Indian dairy and bottle shop owners are coming under violent attack by some of our Maori and Pacific Island boys who are targeting tobacco.
I think we can solve this spike in violence in a number of ways.
Firstly, we need far more interaction between Indian shop owners and the Maori and Pacific communities they work in. Let’s sit down together and work through some cultural connections to keep the shop owners in our community feeling safe.
Secondly, we need investment into job training and skills learning. Smashing up three shops for $20 is a symptom of a desperation that is robbing our young men of their hope.
Thirdly, let’s acknowledge that the ever increasing tax on tobacco is now creating more of a black market problem than health solution. We need to invest in allowing more vaping to help nicotine addicts switch to a less lethal product and we need to start considering super vice taxes on the profits of tobacco and alcohol companies so that the corporations within the tobacco and booze industries start paying some of the social cost off their profit margin rather than taxing the poor individual addicted to their products.
It is not acceptable that hard working Kiwis must face violence and abuse at work and it is not acceptable that our youth are so lost they think smashing up shops for no more than a couple of bucks is a good idea.
If any of the young men responsible for this senseless crime wish to do the right thing and turn themselves in but fear the consequences, my marae is open for them to come forward and we’ll walk the path along with them. The first stop on that pathway is an apology to the staff you frightened and intimidated.
First published in the Manukau Courier