CALL TO ACTION – YOUTH CRIME

CALL TO ACTION – YOUTH CRIME

30th Jan 2024

Youth crime is out of control in Victoria. What is the Government and the Courts doing to curb the current crime pandemic?  Absolutely nothing.

The Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) warned of this almost nine years ago.  Sadly, our warning was ignored.

People in Victoria do not feel safe from youth gangs and young, aggressive, violent, offenders. Violent home invasions, carjackings and theft of cars in endemic and serious assaults, often involving knives, have become commonplace.

How can this blight on society be curbed?

Firstly, the idiocy of raising the age of criminality to fourteen must be abandoned. It is ideology overriding common sense.

Secondly, the Judiciary must adopt a more realistic regime on penalising youth criminal behaviour.  Repeatedly bailing young offenders without imposing strict, enforced conditions is lunacy.  Curfews and electronic tracking must be immediately introduced. Prohibiting contact with co-accused is also necessary to break the cycle of peer pressure.  Home detention instead of jail is a viable option with an exception to allow attendance at school which must be mandatory.

Thirdly, a proactive regime of crime prevention is required.  Making arrests is reactive not proactive.

Victoria Police, as part of its mandate, is required to fight, reduce and prevent crime.

In 1989 Victoria Police introduced a Police in Schools (PISP) Program.

This program was delivered by police trained for the purpose.

PISP – The aims of the program were:

  • to reduce the incidence of crime in society;
  • to develop a better relationship between police and youth in the community;
  • to create in young people an understanding of the police role in the structure of society;
  • to extend the concept of the crime prevention into the Victorian school system;
  • to equip young people with the necessary skills to avoid dangerous and threatening situations.

Along with these specific aims, behavioural objectives were set, and after participation in the program, young people were able to:

  • demonstrate the values, responsibilities and obligations current society deems valuable;
  • state the consequences of a person’s actions regarding unlawful behaviour;
  • demonstrate sufficient self-esteem and skill to avoid or reduce and delay the uptake of illicit drugs and resist engaging in anti-social behaviour;
  • engage in positive interactions and consultation with police members:
  • state the basic role of police and the legal system in Victoria.

In order to achieve the above aims and objectives, the program delivered a core structure of seven themes, namely:

  • the role of police in society;
  • the legal system;
  • rights, rules and responsibilities;
  • consequences of our actions;
  • keeping ourselves and others safe;
  • drug and alcohol education;
  • personal development.

In a reintroduced PISP there should be three further themes added:

  • anti-bullying strategies;
  • domestic violence avoidance;
  • road traffic safety;

All of these ten themes would closely interlink with the school curriculum thus enhancing the relevance of the program to the school community and the learning of the young people concerned.

Students, following their participation in the PISP, were able to:

  • demonstrate the values, responsibilities and obligations current society deems valuable;
  • state the consequences of a person’s actions regarding unlawful behaviour;
  • demonstrate sufficient self-esteem and skill to say no to drug abuse and other antisocial behaviour;
  • engage in positive interactions and consultation with police members;
  • state the basic role of police and the legal system in Victoria;
  • develop a better understanding between police and youth in society;
  • gain an understanding of the police role in the structure of society;
  • be equipped with the necessary skills to avoid dangerous and threatening situations.

The PISP was a resounding success as confirmed by an academic review conducted by Monash University, the results released in 2004.

Where the PISP operated there was a sharp reduction in graffiti, other acts of vandalism, petty crime and anti-social behaviour.  Violent home invasions, carjacking and serious assaults were unknown or very rare.

Many teachers reported that those in their charge were more respectful of them, each other, and were better behaved in class and easier to teach.  Many teachers also reported that they felt safer in the school environment.

Curbing disruptive behaviour in classes also ensured the education of students wanting to learn was not interfered with.  This was and is an important consideration.  The current youth lawlessness also contributes to the drop in literacy standards in our education system, as this lawlessness inevitably seeps into schools.

In 2006 the then Chief Commissioner, Nixon, in an act of proactive policing vandalism, abolished the program after an internal review reported the program was producing excellent results but was poorly managed.

The CAA demands the Government immediately address the youth crime issues by:

  • Abandoning the move to raise the age of criminality.
  • Requiring the Judiciary to adopt a more realistic regime on penalising youth criminal behaviour.
  • Requiring the Victoria Police to reintroduce a PISP and properly resource this Program.

If no action is taken, it will be inevitable police will have to be stationed in schools to maintain law and order, enabling schools to function.  A reintroduced PISP is by far the better option as part of the education process.

We, the citizens of Victoria, have had enough of juvenile crime.

YOUTH CRIME IS YOUR FAULT

YOUTH CRIME IS YOUR FAULT

The Herald Sun 19/12/23 again reports the burgeoning crime in this State, particularly serious youth crime.

They highlight the case of a 16-year-old boy implicated in 18 aggravated burglaries where cars were stolen in just over 5 weeks. The boy was charged with 48 offences in that time but was continually allowed to walk free by our legal system.

Other prolific offenders reported are,

  • A 13-year-old boy was charged with eight aggravated burglaries and four car thefts in the four weeks.
  • A 13-year-old boy was arrested four times and charged with four aggravated burglaries and five car thefts.
  • A 12-year-old accused of six robberies and an assault.
  • A 15-year-old charged with seven aggravated burglaries, five car thefts and a robbery.

Officers attached to Operation Trinity have made 2231 arrests since March, including 502 for aggravated burglaries and stealing vehicles.

The other 1729 arrests concerned what police described as “drug and other miscellaneous offences”.

And the loud response from those facilitating this outrageous behaviour is the same every time, ‘crickets’.

The Government and Opposition remain mute, the Courts and professionals in the youth field follow suit, and the only explanation falls to the Police.

The police are left with the glib line.

“Police say homeowners failing to take precautions to protect their property remained an issue.”

Obviously, designed to avoid criticising others, this line (we have heard often before) is disgraceful and explains why we are where we are, following closely on the experiences in Queensland and the NT.

As citizens, it is apparently our responsibility to address this issue, not the government officials we elect and pay with our taxes. Conveniently forgotten is that it is not us but the perpetrator who is committing the crime.

We wouldn’t need to lock things up so much if our government officials, law enforcement, and the justice system would address the root causes of crime and implement effective strategies to discourage young people from engaging in criminal behaviour. We need practical and evidence-based solutions, not just ideologically based theory that is destined to, and does continue to fail.

As it stands, the young offender experiences no significant incentives to stop committing crimes and are set free. Getting caught is no more than an inconvenience and part of the adrenaline rush. Having a Magistrate lecture them is the only penalty.

It is left to the Police to investigate, charge and take these offenders before the courts, securing convictions and then watch them walk out, thumbing their nose at the law only for them to repeat the same behaviour, ad infinitum.

A significant strategy working against reducing this problem is a foreboding bordering on paranoia by the responsible entities not to be blamed or admit to a failure.

Calls for a Royal Commission have been mumbled about, but that will not solve the problem as the track records of Royal Commissions are not that good at resolving problems. They are better equipped for fostering industries based on no empirical evidence, hoping, rather than determining, that the industries have the solution, and the exercise will take 3-5 years and cost us Millions for no appreciable return on that investment.

What is needed is leadership to implement accountabilities on entities to perform and achieve change by a no-blame approach, and the development of some basic pragmatic principles by which all entities adhere.

That will make some uncomfortable, but so be it; we want a result-based holistic approach that encompasses the Courts, the Police, Health, Corrections and Welfare Services, including NFPs, and organisations who work in this area.

We know that there are many who are ideologically opposed to concepts like personal accountability, but this type of ideology must not influence the solution to the problem because that is what has caused it.

The obsession with not sending young people to jail must stop. The ridiculous notion that jail will only make them worse begs the question, ‘worse than what’.

It is also incredible how certain sectors blame the Youth Detention centres as not fit for young people. We agree that they are not suitable for many young people, but they are suitable for securing violent juvenile thugs who pose a genuine and demonstrated risk to the community.

There is also the stupid notion that the Detention Centres themselves are the problem. An example is the Northern Territory, where a Royal Commission recommended the closure of the Don Dale Facility in Darwin. The physical building had little or no impact, it was the management regime of the place that failed dismally.

Like other Detention Centres the problem is not the building, it is the ineffective management of inmates, and we need to accept that some inmates are so incorrigible they need to be secured and restricted, not only for the good of the community, but, ironically, in the best interest of the convicted perpetrator and other inmates and staff.

The idiotically asinine belief permeating through our youth justice administration that perpetrators who continue to offend will be harmed by Detention is the first thing that must change because the reality is that avoiding saving them from themselves is irresponsible. How can they be so dumb?

The CCYP and Youth Justice have a lot to answer for as they are clearly asleep at the wheel or, more probably, are void of competent leadership that would have them both attentive and focused on these issues.

Their most notable output on these issues is ‘crickets’.

Immediate reform of the way recidivist juvenile offenders are treated in our criminal justice system, rather than excuses, is long overdue.