Shop owner assaulted as youth offending rises in Palmerston North

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Happy Variety manager Terry Zhang says he was assaulted by the youths who also damaged store property.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Happy Variety manager Terry Zhang says he was assaulted by the youths who also damaged store property.

Retailers in Palmerston North are becoming targets of violent youth crime, and shop owners say they feel unprotected.

Terry Zhang, director of Happy Variety on Main Street, appealed for help on the store’s Facebook page after he was assaulted by three youths on Sunday morning.

The children, who had received multiple trespassing orders, entered the store and used scooters to destroy property, before turning on Zhang.

“They destroyed the store using their scooters and used the scooters to attack me. I had several scratches on my body.

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Terry Zhang no longer wants to suffer from abuse.

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Terry Zhang no longer wants to suffer from abuse.

Zhang wanted stricter laws to be considered when it comes to young people in the justice system.

“We call the police and they issue a trespass order, but the kids are coming back here. The excuse is that the kids are too young to do anything about it, but that’s crazy to me.”

Zhang, who was born in China, said New Zealand laws do not allow retailers to protect themselves.

“Where I come from, people have the right to defend themselves when they are in danger.

“In New Zealand we’re not allowed to, it’s so weird that we’re put in danger and we’re not allowed to do anything, we just have to suffer.”

He wanted the law to be changed to ensure that harsher sentences were imposed on young offenders.

“I think the law is absolutely wrong.

Terry Zhang's store is one of many businesses targeted by <a class=young people.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

DAVID UNWIN/Stuff

Terry Zhang’s store is one of many businesses targeted by young people.

“We need to do something urgently. This is anti-social behavior and the government and police need to do more. ”

A Broadway Avenue store owner, who did not want to be named, said the same group of young people entered his store before Christmas.

She said they intended to cause trouble, blow vape smoke in her face and verbally abuse her when she asked them to leave.

“This young boy kept repeating to my face: ‘what are you going to do?’ I was alone and I thought ‘what am I going to do?’

“So, I just called the police.”

She said the youngest offender appeared to be only eight or nine years old.

Oranga Tamariki’s director of youth justice, Phil Dinham, said the organization was aware of an increase in youth crime in Palmerston North and was working closely with police to address it.

“Generally when someone is categorized as a young offender, 10 to 14 years old, it’s seen as a care and protection issue and that’s where we come in.

“We work with the police to identify a family issue and meet with the family to discuss parental guidance and any boundaries they should provide.”

Dinham said that once the child reached 14, it became more important for him to take responsibility for his actions.

“It is no longer up to the parent alone to take responsibility for what the child has done.

“The police will visit the family, and we will work with them on how the child will right the wrong and where they go from here.”

Dinham said Oranga Tamariki encouraged victims to participate through family conferencing and talking with the offender and his whānau about how the behavior affected them.

He said when there was a spike in disruptive behavior in an area, Oranga Tamariki mapped it out and started prevention work.

“We are trying to get ahead. In these cases there is usually a core group of problem children, we try to separate them from that group and then work with them individually.

A police media spokeswoman confirmed that police responded to the incident in Happy Valley at 11.30am on Sunday.

The three young people had been referred to youth aid, she said.

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