Alice Springs Mayor Seeks Federal Help Over Crime Crisis

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at
January 28, 2022Updated: February 1, 2022

The mayor of the Northern Territory town of Alice Springs, Matt Paterson, has issued a plea for help to around 40 Australian federal ministers, senators, and state MPs over a crime wave that he says has brought the town to breaking point.

In a letter posted on social media on Friday, Paterson said he was fed up, business owners were fed up, and so were residents.

“This isn’t about politics, I don’t care which side of the political aisle you sit on,” he said.

“At local government level we are restricted in what we can do regarding crime but this is a call for help. Something needs to change immediately.”

Paterson said was not exaggerating when he claimed that each day, businesses were being destroyed, cars stolen and smashed, houses broken into, people are assaulted while walking to their cars, and intruders climbing through the bedrooms of young children while their parents slept.

“People no longer feel safe in their homes. We’ve had tragic deaths and near misses as a result of crime in our community,” the letter read. “Frankly, we are at the end of the road.”

Among the recipients of the letter were Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, 25 members of the Northern Territory (NT) Parliament, and NT federal Senators Sam McMahon, and Malarndirri McCarthy.

The letter said the Alice Springs Council ran several youth services, and had an extensive CCTV network, as well as other infrastructure to combat crime.

“So we are certainly delivering on our role,” it read.

“I am aware that we receive grants from the Commonwealth and Territory government, and for that I am grateful. However, right now it’s simply not enough.”

Paterson wrote that collaboration was key to solving the crisis, with involvement from the entire community and all institutions.

“Please accept this as an invitation, I am urging you to come to Alice Springs to witness this first hand,” he wrote.

“I am sending you this letter because I believe you can help us get Alice Springs back to the amazing place it once was and I believe can be again.”

Meanwhile, NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said at a press conference on Friday that there was always a spike in criminal activity in Alice Springs in January, citing 17 unlawful entries in the 24 hours preceding Wednesday as an example.

“It’s unfortunately a pressure point in Alice Springs at the moment,” he said.

We had significant planning in place, but unfortunately with the COVID pressures, I’ve had to divert some of my resources away to provide support into various remote communities.

He went on to say that the efforts of Alice Springs police have been outstanding, noting that they are working against a social welfare challenge that’s been present for decades.

“If people want to try to raise that issue at the national level, then I think it’s highly appropriate people start having the conversations about what the true causation is and why the highest welfare dependency is in place in these populations,” Chalker said.

In Alice Springs from Dec. 1, 2019 to Nov. 30, 2020, more than 2,000 crimes were committed against a person, whereas 4,670 crimes were committed against property.

For the same period over 2020 to 2021, those figures rose to 2,166 and 6,084 respectively, increases of 5.45 and 30.28 percent.

In reference to specific crimes, the stand-out change over the period was the rate of commercial break-ins and house break-ins, which increased by 67.6 percent and 29.68 percent respectively.