TikTok dares thought behind car theft surge

‘Social media and pandemic influencing offending by youths’






About 10 cars a day are being stolen in Ka¯piti and local community leaders are concerned social media platform TikTok has a role. Police confirmed 290 vehicles were stolen around Ka¯piti in February, 310 in March and another 240 up until April 20. The week before last six young people — including two 12-year-olds — were referred to Youth Aid for “interfering with vehicles” in Waikanae Beach, according to police. Community social media pages have several posts about vehicles being stolen, found or people catching thieves in the act. Waikanae resident John Nelson had his family’s seven-seater Toyota Wish stolen on Monday night last week right outside his home. No one heard a thing — “not even my dog heard them” — and he said it was devastating. “We’re a single income family paying a mortgage and we rely on it for getting the kids to school and all sorts of stuff really.” He wanted reassurance that police were dealing with the issue. “It would be quite nice to see a cop car cruise up and down the street a couple of times a week just to know you’re safe in your community,” he said. Police said the reasons why youth were involved in this type of offending was “a complex one to answer” that had several factors, including the influence of social media. The help of wha¯nau and the community was needed to steer “vulnerable young people” towards better outcomes because officers could not address the issue alone, police said. Mayor K Gurunathan thought that would not be enough. “Local Government is not resourced in this area. This is a central Government issue and the agency’s issue, but we’re willing to work with them to see what can be done.” He hoped police could “nip it in the bud” before things escalated to ram raids, as seen elsewhere. Gurunathan, like other community leaders, mentioned TikTok when speaking to RNZ. Ka¯piti Youth Support (KYS) chief executive Raechel Osborne said people were being influenced by “unsocial behaviours” they saw on social media that were presented as OK to do. She thought it was a flow-on effect of the pandemic and platforms like TikTok were seeing increasingly younger audiences engage with them. “Covid’s isolated them [youths] so they’re not able to connect with young people. What we’re seeing here at KYS is an increase in demand, we are seeing our services are stretched.” She said the offenders were not necessarily locals and possibly themselves victims in some way who needed support. Riaan de Bruyn, the leader of Ka¯ piti Community Patrol — a volunteer group supporting police with local crime prevention, said he was aware of youth offenders using TikTok and posting videos to “show off”. He thought the platform was acting as an “encouraging tool”. “It’s like ‘hey, look what I’ve done, we encourage you to do the same — let’s see who can get the most likes,”’ he said. A TikTok spokesperson said safety was its priority, that it removed content promoting or enabling criminal activity and did sometimes lodge reports with police. “We remain vigilant in our commitment to countering such content and encourage our community to report potential violations of our community guidelines.” — RNZ