Why does juvenile crime around CQ seem to be worsening?
It’s been nearly a year since The Morning Bulletin interviewed residents of the small town of Dingo, 120 kms west of Rockhampton, about ongoing youth crime issues.
Men told us they went to bed by five o’clock most afternoons, so they could get up after midnight to watch out for juvenile criminals entering their streets.
Even then, the Dingo residents stood by helpless as their property was trashed and stolen, knowing they would bear the legal brunt should they intervene to stop the delinquents.
The owner of the Dingo roadhouse and pub said his business was virtually uninsurable, such was the frequency with which children rammed stolen cars into the buildings and took off with his merchandise.
Another person said he had an album of photos taken from CCTV cameras which clearly showed the same individuals from the ages of 11 or 12 through to 17.
Those CQ locals pointed their fingers squarely at the Queensland Government’s Youth Justice Strategy.
Under the Queensland Police Pursuit Policy, an officer is prohibited from pursuing a vehicle unless the offender poses an imminent threat to life.
An offender’s age, should they be deemed juvenile, also prohibits a pursuit.
The reasoning behind the Act was that children were likely to be injured or die (or kill someone else) if the stolen car they were driving crashed.
That’s false logic, according to Bond University criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy.
Dr Goldsworthy said police needed to reconsider their approach to pursuits, with young car thieves well aware they would not be chased.
“They are driving like that even without the police chasing them,” he said.
“They are not joy-riding at 60km/h.”
Queensland’s former Police Commissioner has also gone on record saying the Act needed to be overhauled, going so far as to suggest repeat offenders should be fitted with a GPS tracker.
Last year, the then-Youth Justice Minister, Di Farmer, refuted the system was failing, saying the youths would be locked up “if they are a risk to community safety”.
This week, it has been revealed Queensland is the “stolen vehicle capital” of Australia, with a 48 per cent increase in thefts from 2015 to 2019, and rising.
Children steal cars at a higher rate than any other age bracket and are responsible for half of all Queensland robberies.
Now the Small Business Minister, Ms Farmer was in Rockhampton Tuesday to promote a State Government roadshow.
When asked about the impact of crime – property damage and theft, for example – on small businesses, she lauded the State Government’s half-billion dollar commitment.
“Those figures don’t mean anything if your neighbour’s just been robbed or you were just assaulted,” she said.
“But we know about 10 per cent of repeat offenders commit about 44 per cent of the crimes so we’re focusing on efforts on dealing with those hard nuts.
“If small businesses think that crime has a significant impact on their success, then that’s something we need to hear.”
Not only the people of Dingo but all the residents of Central Queensland - the people whose cars are being stolen, the tradies whose tools are being stolen, the parents who fear for their family’s safety on the road - have been crying ‘enough already’ for the longest time.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said this week that “obviously the instances over the last week highlight that there’s more to be done”.
No doubt, the people of Dingo would have preferred that conclusion was reached this time last year.
The Member for Keppel and Assistant Education Minister Brittany Lauga provided the response:
“The Youth Justice Act clearly requires a magistrate or judge to deny a defendant bail, and keep them in custody if the court believes that young person is a danger to the community.
“These laws were strengthened last year and make it clear that offenders who pose a risk to community safety must be kept in custody.
“There has been a failure of the youth justice system, and we all want answers about the events and issues leading up to the Alexandra Hills tragedy where Kate and Matt lost their lives, and why courts made the decisions they did.
“I can assure my constituents in Keppel that we are working closely with Queensland Police to unearth the reason for those events and to ensure that may never happen again.
“Our government continues to review the youth justice system ... conceding it was only a small group of young offenders that are repeatedly responsible for breaking the law.”
That was followed by a statement from the Leader of the Opposition David Crisafulli:
“Breach of bail must be restored as a criminal offence in Queensland,” he said.
“The government must move to enact this legislation as its first order of business when Parliament resumes.
“We, the Commissioner, the Police Union and, most importantly, Queenslanders are calling for action.
“On 118 occasions in Parliament and in the media, we have called for breach of bail to be restored as an offence.
“The government is now admitting its failings.
“Now it must take action.”