‘Cheeky’ teens abusing laws made after Daniel’s death
Young people are increasingly abusing the "no child left behind" policy implemented after the death of Coast schoolboy Daniel Morcombe, recent data shows.
TransLink data shows that during the 2019/20 financial year, 92 per cent of Sunshine Coast and Noosa bus passengers paid their fare.
When compared to the previous year, there has been a three per cent increase in the number of people not paying their way in the area.
A TransLink spokesman said while they couldn't disclose the exact number of youths in the figures, youth fare evasion was identified as a "complex and challenging problem".
"We know that some school-aged children are deliberately fare evading and taking advantage of our commitment to child safety," the spokesman said.
The topic of youth fare evasion previously surfaced in 2012 when then LNP Transport Minister Scott Emerson said children were exploiting the principle, put in place after Daniel was abducted while waiting by the side of a Sunshine Coast road for a bus in December 2003.
The TransLink spokesman said fare evasion cost the State Government up to $25 million each year.
"These are lost funds that would otherwise be used to improve services for all users, such as increasing frequency of services, adding new services into growing areas, and expansion of hours of services," he said.
Daniel Morcombe Foundation founder Bruce Morcombe said the "no child left behind" policy wasn't designed to be taken advantage of.
"(It) came into effect because of Daniel's situation almost 17 years ago," he said.
"(It) says that bus drivers are required to pick up a child at a bus stop even if they don't have a sufficient fare.
"It is for the unlikely but very possible circumstance that a child lose their money so they don't get refused entry.
"But we are very much aware that some individuals do take advantage of that and get on a bus challenging the bus driver with the illustration 'you are required to pick us up'."
Several initiatives to combat the problem have been implemented by the State Government, including the announcement on Friday to further stamp the growing issue out.
TransLink's revenue protection team will this month grow to 63 Senior Network Officers (SNOs) as announced by Transport Minister Mark Bailey.
The new recruits will work alongside 29 GoldinQ customer service officers, 23 Queensland Rail authorised officers and 80 Queensland Police Service rail squad officers.
Their role is to stage regular station lockdowns and patrols, educate public transport users and issue penalty infringements and warning notices.
The Rail Tram and Bus Union's Tom Brown hoped this would make a real impact.
"Fare evasion leads to much worse behaviour on buses so the RTBU supports any increase in resources to tackle it," he said.
The Transport Workers Union's Peter Biagini said as frontline bus drivers continued to keep the community moving, it was more important now than ever to ensure that they were safe at work and that everyone was doing their part.
"We know that fare evasion contributes to conflict and altercations on our bus network, putting drivers wellbeing at risk, and increasing the chance for physical contact during a pandemic," he said.
Mr Morcombe added that it was another welcomed initiative to fade out "those cheeky individuals who want to abuse the 'no child left behind' policy".
The State Government last year held two roundtable meetings to gather insights from a range of stakeholders to address youth fare evasion.
The roundtables were attended by more than 30 representatives from across the transport industry, policing, education, youth justice, community and child safety sectors, including the Daniel Morcombe Foundation.
Other initiatives in place include the Step Up program which targets school students with high fare evasion and behavioural offences, the State Government-funded trial of eight customer service officers employed by Bus Queensland to ride on and monitor Brisbane companies and the See It From Their Side bus driver safety campaign ads.
The new SNO recruits are expected to have their first shifts in October.