Top cop’s insight into CQ’s growing youth crime issue
THE full extent of CQ's youth crime problem was brought into sharp focus yesterday with the release of Queensland Police’s youth crime statistics for Capricornia, which were collected over the past decade.
They didn’t make for pretty reading with robbery offences grabbing the headlines, up an alarming 2000 per cent since 2010.
Over the past five years, there’s been a tremendous 360 per cent increase in Unlawful Use of Motor Vehicles, a 157 per cent rise in Unlawful Entries and assaults are up by 64 per cent.
While drug crimes have remained stable over the past five years, they are still up by 118 per cent over the past decade.
At the coal face confronting the youth crime issue on a daily basis is Detective Acting Inspector of Capricornia District Luke Peachey.
He has seen CQ’s youth crime problem evolve over time after being initially posted to the Rockhampton region between 1999 and 2004 before returning for his second posting in 2017.
Det Insp Peachey is a realist and knows there are no simple solutions to remedy Capricornia’s youth crime problem but he is a supporter of a “holistic” crime prevention strategy which would address the core issues underlying offending, with imprisonment reserved as a last resort.
QPS’s latest youth crime statistics for Capricornia had only just landed on his desk not long before his at-length discussion with The Morning Bulletin to discuss their implications.
He said police had seen an increase in the number of property offences over the past three to four years.
“But as of the last month or so, we’ve seen a significant decline in offences, especially those involving juvelines,” Det Insp Peachey said.
In the past three nights, he said no property offences were recorded in the Rockhampton region.
There were a number of reasons why police thought this recent improvement was occurring.
“We do have a couple of fairly regular juveline offenders who are in custody at the moment, so that could contribute to it,” he said.
“For the last three or four weeks we’ve been involved with youth justice in the co-responder model (special government strike teams in unmarked cars) on a 24 hour roster.
“With (the impact of) COVID-19, all our courses and training have been cancelled and the number of police out on the street has been significantly higher.”
While it was still early days for the strike team program and we won’t know the true effectiveness for some time yet, Det Insp Peachey was optimistic.
“What we’re hoping to see is with the early engagement with the juveniles, obviously those ones that are targeted, that we can build relationships with them and try and steer them on the right path,” he said.
Det Insp Peachey admitted there “wasn’t any secret” about the issue of youth reoffenders but was unwilling to be drawn on complaints from the community about “slap on the wrist” sentencing where juvenile offenders were quickly shuffled out of custody, only to reoffend.
“A large majority, not just of your juvenile offenders but of adult offencers we see caught up in the court system, (and) as quickly as they are released, they’re back committing offences,” he said.
“That’s why we’re trying to look at programs like this youth co-responder model where we’re trying to engage with these people and steer them on the right path so we don’t have to be reactive, and can be more proactive towards the approach that we can take.”
The employment of District Crime Prevention Coordinators (DCPCs), school-based police officers, Adopt-a-Cops and Police Liason Officers (PLOs) were other strategies used by police and other organisations to engage troubled youth.
“As a whole, we need to look at this as a holistic approach, engage health (providers), and engage communities as well,” he said.
“Because it’s not just a police issue, or a youth justice matter to engage these people.
“Cooperatively, we’ve got to look towards an approach that steers these troubled juvelines away from a life of offending.”
Having a stable and supportive family environment is an essential component to breaking the youth crime cycle.
“I’d love to see families take a lot more interest in a lot of these kids. We find a lot of troubled youth haven’t got that father figure or mother figure, that hierachial person to steer them away (from doing the wrong thing),” he said.
He agreed with the idea floated that parents with misbehaving children should also be punished in some way.
“It’s very easy to point the finger and communities and at police but I’d love to see them all come together, including the families of these youths, so that we can work together on an approach,” he said.
He said the last thing police wanted to do was put a juvenile person in custody because “it breaks your heart” when you see it happen with a 14-year-old kid.
“At the same time, the last thing you want to see is a 14-year-old kid doing a home invasion and belting someone, you know that’s not right,” he said.
“If they do that, then don’t be fooled, police will take the action in regards to that.
“But as a whole, and as a community, we need to take a holistic approach and engage a number of agencies so that we can steer these people away from that.”
As for strategies flagged by politicians such as boot camps, Det Insp Peachey said police would support whatever plans were supported by scientific evidence of their effectiveness.
He was supportive of public forums being organised to further discuss the region’s youth crime issue.
In the meantime, he said police wouldn’t get carried away with the recent positive results, continuing to be out there, working hard to address the youth crime issue and steer people in the right direction.
“Policing is a bit like the ocean, you can never turn your back on it for too long because you never know what’s going to happen.”