20th October 2021

The Opinion piece by Deputy Police Commissioner Rick Nugent in the Herald Sun on the 19th of October 2021 sets out the extraordinary and successful efforts that Victoria Police is applying to Youth Gang crime.

In so far as the effort is targeted from when a young person first comes to police notice, the work is very commendable but disappointing in its sphere of influence.

The CAA has long argued that by the time a child comes to police notice irrespective of the resources that may then be applied, for far too many, the prognosis for that child is that they will become a recidivist. The cycle is entrenched in them.

In short, ‘The horse has bolted’.

For every young person targeted and effectively removed from a gang either by sanctions or otherwise, a long line of willing aspirants anxiously waiting to fill the voids created.

Understanding and accepting that all young people are and quite properly aspirational is the key. It is a matter of guiding or influencing those aspirations characterised as ‘achieving social prestige and or material success’.

Therefore, the efforts of the Victoria Police in this context are too late. The more significant effect will be achieved if the contact is with the young people before entering the scene and coming to Police notice. We do not encourage the lessening of the operational efforts currently underway; they are essential.

The problem with the gang issue is cultural, and we do not mean culture based on ethnicity, although that may appear to be the case. The point is the culture of misdirected aspirations. And the solution, police having positive interactions with young people before aspirations influence their negative behaviours.

This will reduce the gang culture dramatically by addressing the supply side. It will also positively impact the crime and antisocial behaviour of teenagers more broadly.

We accept that the resource drain on Victoria Police during the Covid pandemic has been astronomical. Therefore, we understand the need not to pursue the Police In School Program (PISP) previously announced by the Chief Commissioner. It would have been pointless as schools went in and out of lockdown. However, as we come out of this pandemic, we would be encouraging the Chief Commissioner to re-establish that commitment so schools can plan their involvement.

While a PISP adequately resourced will have a positive influence, this will not occur overnight; the original programs influence after the closure took a number of years to bleed out of the system; similarly, the reintroduction will take time to have an effect. If past experience is any guide, the time frame of impact by the reintroduction will be relatively short.

Although the PISP was the cornerstone of Police influence on young people, many of the programs that have been mothballed also need to be revisited and built-in support of the schools’ program to increase its effectiveness.

Examples like the Blue Light Program have a role to play. Although there is some argument the core activity is not as popular as it was, that assumption is incorrect as the commercial sector, before Covid, had developed a market for underage Disco’s that they had trouble accommodating due to their popularity.

Blue Light Disco’s support and coordination with the PSIP program will have a dramatic and positive effect.