Senior constable Dave Lemalu said that compared to his experiences in other areas, youth crime in Gladstone is not a big issue.
Senior constable Dave Lemalu said that compared to his experiences in other areas, youth crime in Gladstone is not a big issue. Brenda Strong

High employment helps keep youth out of trouble in city

IN HIS role as district crime prevention officer, senior constable Dave Lemalu meets his fair share of young people.

With three years on the job in a variety of locations, Constable Lemulu said as far as youth crime goes in Gladstone, we're doing pretty well.

"I've worked in the northern coast, I worked in Bribie Island, Caboolture district, worked in Kingaroy, Wondai, and Gladstone," he said.

"In terms of youth crime, Gladstone is very tidy.

"I know recently, from hearing all the reports in Far North Queensland, they recently have had a spate of youth crime there, 95 persons, with 300 offences. So Gladstone, is nowhere near that scale.

It seems with all the ups and downs industry has brought to town, aimless youth is not one of them.

"The technical college I think is largely a part of that. They have a lot of traineeships, apprenticeships which keep a lot of our young people on the straight and narrow," Constable Lemalu said.

"There is good employability here and there's a lot in terms of the mining companies coming forward and supporting a lot of those apprenticeships and traineeships. I think that provides an avenue, it gives them hope."

Constable Lemalu said youth crime was unavoidable, wherever you are.

"You'll find that anywhere, the negatives," he said.

"But you have to remember this is a very, very small number of young people committing these offences. The majority are doing very, very well.

"I think because there's this problem, it's more a focus on the few, that we don't see all the good things that are happening in our community."

Those performing these crimes tend to be reoccurring offenders.

"We're well versed with our young people who come into contact with police," Constable Lemalu said.

"And it is about making sure when something does go wrong that we try and get on top of it early. Obviously if it keeps going, it leads to all kinds of difficulties later on in life, in terms of criminal history.

"I think the early stages of these young people's lives, unfortunately, is an important part what eventually they'll become."

The trend in gender for youth offenders tends to be young males.

"It's always going to be young boys, obviously aggression is a large part of that," Constable Lemalu said.

"Their sheer physicality and probably most importantly their inability to communicate their anger and frustration… And no real mentor or role model for them."

Constable Lemalu said the solution for youths who come from a troubled family should be holistic and not just focus on the individual.

"The old African proverb is it takes a village to raise a child," he said.

"It does take a whole lot of people making a concerted effort.

"I think rather than facilities, when you strip it all back to the family unit, young people cope with pretty much anything , if the family unit is strong. 

"A large part of that is how. It's very, very difficult just to work on the child. The approach has to be a holistic approach, a family approach."