The Hone Kay-Selwyn case: Why do young people join gangs?

By and is republished with permission

The reasons young people end up joining gangs and committing crimes are “very complex”, a community worker with decades of experience says.

On Sunday night, Robert Horne, 33, was shot and killed in a seemingly random act by a gang member in Auckland.

The man now known as the Ponsonby shooter, Hone Kay-Selwyn became a Killer Beez member at age 14, soon dropping out of school.

Court records show Kay-Selwyn was deemed to have a low risk of re-offending after assaulting a stranger at a strip club in 2020.

A pre-sentencing report noted he was bullied in school and had said his gang membership provided him with a “sense of belonging”.

Gang member Hone Kay-Selwyn’s body is being taken from the Massey area to Ōtara today, police said.

At the TYLA Trust, No’oroa Moutira-Pianui has “daily contact” with teenagers inside the youth justice system. He can spend up to two years working with a single young person.

“You might be missing something at home. [Gangs are] offering you food, offering you clothes. If somebody’s offering you friendship, a place to have a good night’s sleep, and food why would you not join?” he said.

“A lot of young people that we deal with either come from single-family homes — and poverty has a lot to do with it.”

Moutira-Pianui said there were a lot of risk factors that added up, which could mean a person in their early teens choosing to join a gang. He said sports and other programmes which kept young offenders busy often helped in his work.

“We believe that if you keep a young person busy, they’re less likely to think about joining a gang or committing crimes because they’re too busy doing something else — something positive that they’re being praised for.”

(file image)
(file image) (Source: 1News)

However, the youth worker said one factor that didn’t matter as much was the threat of tough sentences or prison time.

Govt to bring in ‘social investment’ approach

The Government has plans to bring in its social investment approach with a new agency from July.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has previously spoken of using “powerful interventions” to get at the root causes of criminal behaviour.

Under the approach, Finance Minister Nicola Willis told 1News that agencies will choose the best programmes and give them the time to produce results.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis.
Finance Minister Nicola Willis. (Source: 1News)

“With really powerful social investment, the proof will sometimes be five, 10, or 20 years down the track,” she said.

“That’s much longer than any government, but it’s still change worth making.”

The previous Labour government spent tens of millions boosting education and work programmes for youngsters.

The National Party leader says a new approach is needed to help let Kiwis lead more prosperous lives.

“The biggest questions we always ask in our job: The person who makes these policies — what are their experiences in the frontline?

“Have they been to the frontline and experienced real-life people and real-life families? And not just figures and the paperwork? That’s one of the biggest questions.

“There’s been numerous questions that governments have been asking for, how many years, and there’s no one solution to these things.”

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