YOUTH CRIME: Labor MPs respond to criticism on the big issue
ROCKHAMPTON'S youth crime problem has many locals on edge, needing a political candidate to step up in advance of October's State Election to offer lasting, practical solutions.
According to general crime statistics in Capricornia since Labor were elected in 2015, the LNP said robbery had increased by 88 per cent since while unlawful use of a motor vehicle had increased 107 per cent.
Additionally, there was a 132 per cent increase in armed robberies and a 75 per cent increase in shop stealing.
The pressure has been dialled up on incumbent Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke to explain in detail what was being done to address the upwards trends and fix the complicated problem.
"Community safety comes first, young people must be accountable for their crimes," Mr O'Rourke said.
"Crime rates will change from time to time, but the one thing that never changes is this government's commitment to community safety in Rockhampton.
"This government is open and transparent when it comes to publishing annual crime stats."
He said we needed to be realistic about dealing with youth crime as there were no silver bullets or quick fixes.
A range of responses were required, working in partnership with communities and victims of crime across the state "to deliver solutions that they believe will work for them".
Five point action plan
In March, Mr O'Rourke said his government announced sweeping changes to crack down on youth crime and hardcore repeat offenders.
The government's five-point action plan included:
1. Tougher action on bail. Offenders posing a risk to the community should not get bail
2. A police blitz on bail, appealing court decisions where appropriate
3. A 24/7 Police Strike Team involving youth justice workers for high risk offenders
4. Culture-based rehabilitation for indigenous offenders through new On Country initiatives trialled in Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa
5. Empowering local communities in the war on crime with $2 million for community-based organisations for local community-based solutions
"We already have youth justice workers and police working together 24/7 as part of our new co-responder strike teams, which have been rolled out to five locations across the state," Mr O'Rourke said.
"We have implemented tough new bail laws, ensuring that if young people are an unacceptable risk to the community they must be refused bail."
Mr O'Rourke said they were trialling 'On Country' programs which were being rolled out in Mt Isa, Townsville and Cairns.
The pilot program was focused on 10 to 17-year-old offenders and those with high and complex needs.
Delivered and designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations, it offers an immersive On Country experience and intensive case work support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people referred to the program over a period of time of six to eight weeks.
Transition to Success (T2S) is a program delivered by Youth Justice in Queensland with a mission to change the story for young people, the community and our organisation.
T2S uses a vocational training and therapeutic service model.
Mr O'Rourke said 66 per cent of young people who've taken part in the Transition 2 Success program have not reoffended.
The Restorative Justice Project was established in 2015-16 after an election commitment to reinstate the capacity for courts to refer young offenders to restorative justice conferencing.
A restorative justice conference is a meeting between a child who has committed a crime and the people most affected by that crime to discuss what happened, the effects of the offence and repairing the harm caused to the victim.
"Seventy-seven per cent of young people doing our Restorative Justice program either do not reoffend, or reduce the magnitude of their offending," Mr O'Rourke said.
Project Booyah, a Queensland Police, Youth Leadership and Mentor Program has also experienced success locally.
It utilises adventure based learning, decision making/problem solving exercises, resilience training, policing strategies and family inclusive principles to help young people aged 14-17 years make better life choices.
Policing and detention
Mr O'Rourke said the Queensland Government's record $2.6b police budget was a 20 per cent increase since Labor came to government.
This boosted funding has allowed for 550 approved police positions in this district, working hard to target crime hot spots.
"That funding is having an impact - there's been a 30 per cent reduction in the number of young offenders since 2010," he said.
"What we are now left with is hard-core repeat offenders, 10 per cent of offenders that commit 44 per cent of the crime.
"An intelligence-driven, dedicated property team is targeting and arresting offenders."
The Rockhampton MP said they've spent more than half a billion dollars on new detention centre beds and new programs to reduce the number of young offenders.
"By next year we will have increased youth detention beds by 33 from 230 beds to 306 by next year."
Mr O'Rourke said the youth camp ideas flagged by the LNP and One Nation weren't backed up with evidence that they worked.
He pointed to Campbell Newman's bootcamp trial which sent 35 kids to the camp, of which 66 per cent reoffended and was over budget by $7.4 million.
Youth crime in the Keppel electorate
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said the latest data showed youth crime and the number of young offenders across the electorate of Keppel had significantly reduced in the 12 months to March 2020, compared to the previous year.
"There has been a 30 per cent drop in the number of offences committed by 10 to 17-year-olds in the Rockhampton local government area in the 12 months to March 2020," Ms Lauga said.
"In the year to March 2020, there were 1049 charged offences, compared to 1501 charged offences for the year to March 2019.
"There's also been a 78 per cent drop in the number of offences committed by 10-17- year-olds in the Livingstone Shire local government area in the 12 months to March 2020, compared to the previous twelve months."
"In the year to March 2020, 126 10 to 17-year-olds were charged with an offence compared to 155 in the year to March 2019.
"In Livingstone Shire there were 27 young people charged with an offence in the year to March 2020, compared to 41 in the previous year - a 34 per cent drop."
Although there's been a 30 per cent drop in the number of young offenders committing offences around Queensland, Ms Lauga said there was still a small hard-core group of repeat young offenders.
"The Palaszczuk Government makes no apology for cracking down hard on repeat youth offenders," she said.
"Our five-point plan, which includes our recently announced 24-hour Co-responder model for the Rockhampton area is part of dealing with these young offenders.
"This plan, in addition to the Palaszczuk Government's new laws to deny bail to repeat young offenders considered a danger to the community leave no doubt community safety comes first.
"We know there's no single solution to youth crime, that's why we're delivering a range of responses including T2S which was launched in Central Queensland in 2017 to get young offenders back into school, training and a job."
Speaking about Restorative Justice Conferences, she said an average 77 per cent of young people who completed a Restorative Justice Conference either do not reoffend or showed a decrease in the magnitude of their reoffending within six months of their conference.
"Restorative Justice holds young offenders directly accountable to victims of crime, diverts young people from courts and reduces offending," she said.
"Other early intervention programs include Family Wellbeing Services and Integrated Case Management, an intensive support programs for repeat offenders.
"The Palaszczuk Government has increased the number of youth detention centre beds since we came to Government, by one third or 76 beds.
"More than $550 million has been invested in youth justice reforms by the Palaszczuk Government to prevent, support and respond to crime and its causes."