Tackling Youth Crime ‘Needs Some Real Courage’: Queensland Residents Tell Premier in Heated Meeting

‘The premier has two weeks to work out whether he wants to be brave enough to make the right decision.’
Tackling Youth Crime ‘Needs Some Real Courage’: Queensland Residents Tell Premier in Heated Meeting
Protestors are seen during a Voice for Victims community group rally in Brisbane, Australia, on Aug. 23, 2023. (AAP Image/Darren England)

An advocacy group of concerned Queenslanders has demanded the Miles government to step up their efforts in addressing the state’s escalating youth crime or they would push for a royal commission.

The call comes as crime among youth continues to become a contested issue among politicians and the public, with bureaucracy often being blamed for the centre-left Labor government’s inadequate measures.

Security concerns have been growing throughout the community, with three-quarters of Queenslanders reporting they had improved their home security in 2022, according to a 2023 survey. Meanwhile, nearly half of Queenslanders said they believed youth crime was rising or had reached a crisis point.

The Voice for Victims advocacy group said Steven Miles, the new Queensland premier, had two weeks until Jan. 19 to issue a report on the government’s handling of the issue, or the group would step up the campaign with a royal commission.

A royal commission is an independent investigation into an issue of great importance and has powers to hold public hearings, compile evidence, and make recommendations to the government.

During a heated meeting with Mr. Miles, the group also urged the premier to be courageous and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to repeat youth offenders and move away from the current diversion programs.

Ben Cannon, the group’s founder, warned that more protests would be underway if the group is not satisfied with the government’s response.

“There are so many layers of social justice and community failures that the government has allowed to happen on their watch that this has to be torn apart if it is ever going to get better,” he said.

“The premier has two weeks to work out whether he wants to be brave enough to make the right decision.”

Mr. Cannon added, “unless the new government understands that this needs some real leadership, some real courage from him, then what we end up with is the same bureaucracy that we had with the last premier.”

He noted that the main point of contention is the state government’s independent ministerial advisory council (IMAC), which was set up in 2023 to provide guidance and victims’ perspectives on criminal justice issues and youth crime reforms.

Mr. Cannon argued the council was too big to make timely decisions.

“We are worried that the bureaucracy is going to get in the way of Steven Miles’ good intentions,” he said, adding that the new premier “wants to be different” and “wants to make his mark.”

State Of Youth Crime In Queensland

The previous Palaszczuk government had been criticised by the opposition for being soft on crime, such as by removing youth “boot camps,” no longer publicly disclosing offences of young offenders, or keeping young offenders out of adult prisons until they turn 18.

Instead, it increased the penalty for vehicle stealing offence, made breaching bail conditions for young offenders an offence, and built new therapeutic youth detention centres.

Young offenders committing crimes of a serious nature multiple times could be denied the presumption of bail, while repeat offenders would be forced to wear GPS tracking devices.

Offenders who have “boasted about these crimes on social media” would face tougher penalties, as reports showed that many young criminals live-streamed their crimes.

Serious repeat offenders accounted for about 48 percent of all youth offences, the 2021-2022 annual report (pdf) of the Children’s Court of Queensland showed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children made up 50 percent of those convicted of offences in the court.

Meanwhile, 17-year-olds was the largest single age group of child offenders, followed by 16-year-olds.

“We will use the full force of the law to target the small cohort of serious repeat offenders that currently pose a threat to community safety,” former Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in 2023.

“When these kids reoffend time and again, we need the police to catch them. And we need the courts to do their job.”

According to the 2021-22 Queensland Crime Report (pdf), the number of offenders aged 10 to 17 being proceeded against by police had risen to 52,742—the highest in a decade. It represented a 13.7 percent increase compared to the previous year.

The number of youth offenders stealing vehicles also almost doubled between 2012 and 2022.

It also revealed that while young people accounted for one-fifth of total offenders, they made up more than half of robberies, stolen vehicles, and break and enter crimes in 2021-2022.

Theft was the most prevalent crimes among young offenders in 2021-2022, making made up almost a quarter of all offences. This is followed by unlawful entry and unlawful use of motor vehicles.

On the other hand, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggested that the youth offender rate in 2021-2022 had decreased from 1,910 to 1,863 offenders per 100,000 persons aged between 10 and 17 years.

The ABS report did not take into account the number of times a young criminal re-offended, however, and only counted the number of unique offenders coming into contact with police.

Queensland Opposition Leader David Crisafulli told Sky News Australia that youth crime was “ripping a hole through the state.”

“You can say more needs to be done, but the solutions are on the table,” he said on Jan. 9.

“We’ve been putting them on the table for three years.”

AAP contributed to this article.
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at [email protected].
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