20th June 2023

The Community Advocacy Alliance CAA has been concerned for some time and repeatedly warned that failing to undertake effective preventative, proactive programs will lead to a worsening youth crime rate.

Our worst fears have been realised.

So concerned about Law enforcement’s direction, the CAA developed a Police Veterans in Schools Program with many Police coming out of retirement as volunteers to deliver the program. But this was thwarted by the then Chief Commissioner Ashton and the impact of COVID.

The current Chief Commissioner who supported a school’s program has been unable to implement it, and we wonder whether there was pushback from the Education Department or Union against the proposal. Or perhaps internal pressure by those Police with a limited mindset only capable of understanding the reactive approach as the role of Policing.

Irrespective, the State still does not have a structured, measurable program that can intervene and reduce crime before it occurs; proactive Policing.

Unfortunately, over two decades ago, the then Police Command withdrew the Force from active involvement in working face-to-face with youth and the community in crime prevention programs. This decision was not based on any empirical data but the opposite and was implemented by an executive that obviously did not understand Policing and functioned on a whim.

Although there is some activity in this space today, it is minuscule, the efficacy is flaky at best, and what does happen now is not structured or measurable.

The programs scrapped or so severely impacted as to make them impotent, were ‘Blue Light Discos’, ‘Police in Schools Involvement Program’, ‘Safety House’, ‘High Ropes’, and ‘Operation Newstart’, all of which were force-wide. While numerous other programs initiated by local Police, such as ‘Backyard Rugby’, ‘Poll Position’, ‘Walk It Like You Talk It’, and many more, actively engaged with youth.

These programs were predominantly driven by the frontline Police acknowledging the problem and providing a solution, a bottom-up approach with the front line Police having ownership of the initiative and, therefore, voluntary commitment.

The Police recognised the importance of schools in these programs and generally involved them and their community, creating a whole of community approach, to the benefit of the children.

What is forgotten is that the growth of youth gangs can only occur where there is a pool of willing youths eager to join. Engaging with the younger youth before they are misdirected, is the only sure way to mitigate the gang culture – cut the supply line.

Ironically many of these programs initiated and developed in Victoria and then scrapped continue very successfully in other States and overseas, where the value of these programs is universally accepted as an essential part of effective Policing.

Victoria Police have been forced to adopt a more reactive, risk-averse policing model.

The current Chief Commissioner, Patton, is attempting to return to a community policing model, but unfortunately, it is like trying to turn the Titanic. And like the Titanic, these attempts have failed, and the inevitable outcome is where we are today.

In well over a decade, there has been a huge turnover in police numbers, and consequently, many newer police officers know nothing but a reactive policing model, with proactive policing an anathema to most.

We are paying a heavy price with substantial Police resources heavily committed reactively to the youth issue. This is at the cost of servicing the myriad of other societal problems that befall a community. The most obvious is Domestic Violence and the Road Toll.

The result is already being felt, with a marked decline in effective crime prevention, impacting all facets of our lives. Increased incidents of Domestic Violence and a soaring Road Toll.

Fear of crime can be the worst form of oppression for any community.

Having identified failings within Policing, the real elephant in the room seems to avoid scrutiny.

Hiding in full sight is the Judiciary.

While the focus, to a degree, is unfairly levelled at the Police, it is unfair for the Police to shoulder all the blame when it is the Courts that bear the ultimate and the lion’s share of responsibility for the situation we now face.

Police arrest and charge perpetrators, but it is the Courts that determine the penalty upon conviction and must take responsibility for the outcomes of each sentence imposed.

The responsibility for charging perpetrators lies with the police, while the courts determine whether they become recidivists.

However, the legal system in Victoria seems to be a combination of different approaches that claim to be innovative but lack any accountability. The introduction of Restorative Justice in the past decade has caused significant harm to the legal system. This process has reduced the accountability of perpetrators for their crimes and, in some cases, has shifted the blame to the victim. For instance, in cases where the victim left a window open, the perpetrator climbing in and stealing property was seen as less serious, thereby reducing the criminal’s culpability. This is absurd.

In all of the nonsensical initiatives or interpretations that followed the lauded Restorative Justice initiative, the Courts lost perspective of what they were there for and any semblance that the Courts bore any responsibility for the crime rate, is successfully disguised.

Our Court system has so deteriorated that perpetrators can be bailed multiple times, have multiple court appearances, and the Courts simply find excuses to allow the perpetrators to return to the community to offend again.

The oft-hackneyed phrase, ‘incarcerating perpetrators only makes them worse’ -is arrant nonsense because the rhetorical question that must follow is, ‘worse than what?’.

Perpetrators who are recidivists are ‘worse’ back on the streets, particularly young ones who need to be protected from themselves as much as the community needs to be protected from them.

Any notion that the Courts have an obligation to the Victim or society more generally has evaporated. The Courts have been totally encapsulated in the notion that the offender needs all the considerations, and somehow being nice to them will solve the problem.

We suggest that the problem is, that most juvenile offenders who are at the lower end of the IQ Scale see anything other than incarceration as beating the offence.

In reality, most offenders scoff at the lenient sentencing as nothing more than an inconvenience, as the Governments own statistics reveal.

Reoffending by children and young people in Victoria found that in Victoria, young people aged 10 to 14 years have the highest reoffending rates of all ages in the criminal justice system, with more than 80 per cent reoffending at some time, and more than 60 per cent reoffending with an offence against the person (Aggravated Burglaries).


The Judiciary has clearly failed in its duty. Generally, it passes off the responsibility for this shocking State of affairs to the ‘Juvenile Justice system or Police, but it is the Judicial officers who are the ones who determine the outcomes, not some bureaucrat working in the Department or a police member trying to attend more calls than the available time their shift allows.

All the browbeating is worth naught until the Judiciary starts regularly incarcerating offenders rather than issuing continued warnings, introducing consequences, a novel approach to reducing crime.

It’s important to understand that detaining juvenile offenders for a brief period can actually be beneficial in breaking their behavioural patterns. This point is often overlooked by those who are against incarcerating minors.

A child lives in the moment, and time relative to them differs greatly from that of an adult.

Many within the Judiciary avoid the hard decisions, and until we insist on accountability and the compilation of useful statistics where the performance of a Judicial Officer can be measured, nothing is likely to change.

What value is a Judicial officer’s service to society when their decisions translate into a very high recidivism rate amongst perpetrators who are convicted in their Court?

We need to shift the focus of the Courts to their proper role of reducing crime.

Without the Courts doing their job, the Police cannot do theirs, and we all suffer as Police are committed to the recidivist gangs rather than other important issues.

And the future? Courts will continue to allow perpetrators to avoid responsibility for their crimes, and Police will be faced with ever-increasing demands for increased police numbers to deal with exponential demand for the reactive function, at a huge cost to the State that you and I pay for.

We desperately need a brave Government intervention and a circuit breaker to the spiralling downward trend of Law and order in Victoria.

Without intervention in the Courts current philosophical disposition, criminals will ultimately face far less punitive outcomes for their activity and coupled with the moves to decriminalise the Drug issue and raise the age of criminal responsibility, you can see where it is headed – and it is not good.