Child hoons on the loose, alleged teen car thief in custody
"WAYWARD youth" behind the wheel of stolen cars have kept police on alert this week, with two separate incidents in as many days tying up police resources in Roma and other nearby towns.
While one juvenile driver has been caught and charged, a group of young offenders known to police are still at large on southwest roads in a stolen Mercedes Benz, and are a potential danger to the general public.
"Unfortunately in this time we have a few wayward youth who have taken it upon themselves to steal cars and drive them,' Roma police senior sergeant Duane Frank said.
"We are taking these matters very seriously, but have to consider a number of risks when we try to engage them.
"We would like to catch them, but they are inexperienced and driving dangerously, making them a risk not only to themselves and officers, but also other drivers."
The group triggered a police pursuit on Wednesday afternoon, coming through Roma on a long-distance joy ride across the southwest.
The black Mercedes started the day in Cunnamulla, where it was initially reported as a 'suspicious vehicle' at 8.15am, and over the course of the day was clocked travelling at 150km/h along the Warrego Highway between Charleville and Roma.
There were multiple sightings of the vehicle in Roma about 12.30pm, and police were in pursuit of the car before it sped away on the Warrego Highway.
The pursuit was later called off for safety reasons, but patrols continued across the southwest for the group and their car.
Throughout the afternoon they were spotted in Wallumbilla, Dulacca, Miles, Chinchilla, and Tara before police lost them; crews kept searching the Chinchilla-Tara Rd and Dalby-Kogan Rd.
"There are a number of very young offenders who are known to police, and are still at large," Senior Sergeant Duane Frank said.
"They are inexperienced and driving dangerously, which will not only put themselves and police at risk if we try to intercept them, but also other road users."
A Queensland Police spokeswoman told The Western Star the black Mercedes Benz was originally stolen in a Toowoomba burglary on February 4.
The vehicle and children have not yet been located.
On Tuesday, a stolen black Ford FG sedan caused traffic chaos in Roma, speeding around town at 100km/h, driving on the wrong side of the road, and running a red light.
A civilian made the initial call to police about 4pm, and at least five cars went in pursuit of the vehicle, which was being driven by a 16-year-old boy.
Another witness had a dangerous near miss.
"The car came flying around the corner, nearly losing control and narrowly missing us," the witness said.
"Another police car was behind us at the time and turned around to follow him.
"It was quite scary and we slowed down because we saw lots of police in the area, but if we were doing the speed limit our cars would have collided."
The vehicle was found abandoned outside a Roma motel-restaurant about 5pm; police confirmed it had been stolen from Chinchilla.
The 16-year-old is facing 16 charges from the incident, including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, evading police, and theft charges in relation to stealing fuel.
He appeared for a mention in the Roma Magistrates Court on Wednesday, and remains in juvenile detention.
He will face Roma Children's Court on March 2.
What can we do?
According to Snr Sgt Frank, car thieves are becoming more brazen, and will go to great lengths to steal cars.
He and his colleagues in the QPS are emphasising the importance of personal security in the fight against a recent spate of car thefts.
"Gone are the days of car thieves breaking windows and hot-wiring cars - thanks to modern vehicle technology," Snr Sgt Frank said.
"Young people are now breaking in to houses, or simply entering unlocked residences to take keys to start the cars.
"Most people will put their keys on a table when they are at home, but I recommend keeping keys out of sight and in a secure place, so if someone enters, they cannot find them.
"It is also a matter of ensuring everything is locked and secure."