Stopping youth crime begins at home with parents: Top cop
MACKAY police will patrol with Youth Justice workers taking children to school and building relationships in a new program to be rolled out in the city.
Police Minister Mark Ryan today announced the Youth Justice Co-Responder program would be established in Mackay after earlier this year launching in Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns.
He hailed it the "new way of doing policing".
The program partners police with government agencies to prevent youth crime recidivism and divert juveniles from the criminal justice system.
"This year we've seen a 22 per cent reduction in the volume of youth crime here," Mr Ryan said of Mackay's youth crime rate.
"There is a concerning aspect, though, and that is that there is a small cohort, a very small cohort, committing a lot of crime and that is why we launched our five-point plan.
"It's about going hard core on the hard nuts.
"There's this little core group that's committing most of the crime.
"The five-point plan which includes the On-Country program and the co-responder program, which is coming to Mackay, and being tougher on bail."
But police can only do so much, according to Deputy Commissioner for Regional Queensland Paul Taylor.
Reducing recidivism offending in youth started at home, with parents and guardians failing to step up to their caring responsibilities for children left to roam the streets.
While reflective of societal changes, Deputy Commissioner Taylor said youth crime was generational and would take years to reverse the statistics.
"The issue around juvenile offending is not going to be solved by police alone," he said.
"It's a whole of community issue. It wasn't that long ago that parents and guardians took the responsibility for nurturing their children.
"They were responsible for making sure their kids grew up in a safe environment and they wouldn't be out on the streets at all hours of the night."
His officers, he said, had reported children being left outside pubs and hotels while the parents drank.
Others, as young as eight years old, freely walked the streets at night; their parents or guardians unaware they were not at home.
"The number of times I've seen eight-year-old kids roaming the street undertaking dangerous activities and the parents don't even know where they are and on some occasions don't care where they are," Deputy Commissioner Taylor said.
"Some of these kids end up tragically killed as a result of their behaviour and the parents jump up and claim - no doubt they do - claim the love for the child.
"I'm asking them to show the love before they get involved in those dangerous activities. "Take an interest in where your kids are."
The Youth Justice Co-Responder program, at its core, fosters better relationships between young children and teens and police.
In some cases, it varies the role of police who, when partnered with a Youth Justice worker, could include police taking that child to school or medical appointments.
It is geared towards those considered to be on the fringe of a life of crime, and was developed in consultation with various government agencies.
Deputy Commissioner Taylor said the program sought to "divert as many children as possible away from the criminal justice system", and took a holistic view to changing crime.
"It's the fundamentals of raising children," he said.
"Kids deserve to be in bed, kids deserve to get an education, parents have an obligation to be responsible for their kids.
"(Police) are enthusiastically chasing down these kids that are preying on the community.
"We're preying down on those kids who are repeat offenders and we're putting them before the court.
"Those kids who are on the fringes but, they're retrievable, they're savable, and that's the effort we're putting in at the other end of the equation."
The program launched in Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns in July this year - three cities with notorious rates of juvenile offending.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the program had secured some success, but reaffirmed stopping youth crime began at home and with the community.
"It's a very sad environment when the safest place for a child is not in the house," he said.
"We really have to re-educate people, give youth the opportunity.
"We cannot arrest our way out of it, it hasn't worked for 100 years, it's not going to work again so we have to look at other alteratives.
"It's imperative we give the youth a future. Sadly there are some people (where) there is no other option but incarceration.
"But let's try and divert others and give them a chance in life."
LNP spokesman for police Dale Last said the program, when deployed in Townsville, was "severely under-resourced".
"If I was a resident of Mackay, I wouldn't be counting on that program to sufficiently address youth crime," the Burdekin MP said.
"As a former Police Officer, I know how important resources, appropriate command facilities and support services are to the officers who put themselves in harm's way.
"I would have thought such important programs would be subject to ongoing funding, not used as announcements to try and fool people into thinking Labor supports our police."