Who will stop the violence, mum asks

Flowers lie where Enere McLaren-Taana was fatally stabbed at the Dunedin bus hub. PHOTO: PETER...
Flowers lie where Enere McLaren-Taana was fatally stabbed at the Dunedin bus hub. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A Dunedin mother whose terrified teenage son wants to carry a knife to defend himself says police "rolled their eyes" when she sought help.

The woman, who declined to be named, said teenage violence in Dunedin was not limited to the bus hub, where Enere McLaren-Taana, 16, was stabbed to death last week.

Her teenage son was a victim of brutal incidents at school, online, at the bus hub and over the phone, she said.

He was attacked in the Octagon with a skateboard and kicked and punched in the head at the bus hub by the same person.

Police did little in response, she said.

"He reported it, I reported it, and the boy just got a word in the ear, that was all.

"We’re still fighting for police to do something about a incident last year where my boy was told ‘I’m going to stab you; I’m going to shank you; I’m going to slit your throat’."

In frustration she told police that someone was going to get killed, she said.

"Look at these teens — they’re wearing balaclavas and carrying knives. They’re not bored — there is intention."

The carrying of knives among Dunedin teenagers was "horrific and widespread".

Her son was so scared for his own safety he had asked if he could carry a knife — a request she declined.

"My boy is suicidal, the cycle of violence is just never ending and it feels there will never be help — police, schools, the government and all the agencies are failing our kids.

"My son is not perfect, but every system has let him down."

The violence at the bus hub and around Dunedin was a known fact, but it took "a poor boy losing his life for anyone to pay attention and try and do anything about it", she said.

"I keep telling police, if something happens to my child or someone else, who would be blamed? I know their resources are stretched and to an extent their hands are tied, but who can we hold accountable? There are people in the paper saying ‘they weren’t listened to’, and it is the truth.

"When I walk in they [police] roll their eyes and just look like they want to say ‘Oh, what now?’."

There was a reluctance to report incidents due to the "attitude" of officers. The true level of violence with teenagers around the city was under-reported.

"I’ve tried every agency for help, but there is nothing happening — people love to just say ‘the bad kids are coming from bad families’, but that’s not true. They’re coming from the good families as well.

"I’m not going to let this go. I want to help and try do something, not just for my son but all the Dunedin teenagers.

"I don’t know where to start, but I won’t stop talking about this."

The woman’s comments mirror those of a Dunedin father who told the Otago Daily Times his wife warned police a rising tide of violence among the city’s teenagers could end in a death, only an hour before a fatal stabbing at the bus hub.

Their son had also asked if he could carry a knife to defend himself.

Otago coastal area commander Inspector Marty Gray said youth offending was investigated and referred to Youth Aid.

"Youth offending is usually driven by a combination of young people being exposed to a negative home environment, disengaged from schooling and their communities, the monetary gain from dishonesty offending, and social media is influencing greater notoriety for those already at risk."

A lot of the children and teenagers were coming from homes where there was family harm, sexual abuse, abuse of drugs and alcohol, financial pressures and a lack of positive role models.

"There is likely intergenerational offending, struggles with mental health and disengagement from education and learning — this is a complex issue and police cannot solve it alone."

He was not aware of any complaints regarding people reporting crimes and how they were treated, he said, but he encouraged anyone with issues to contact police directly.

"[We police] with the consent of the community and we will listen when we are not meeting our community’s expectations."