‘Dismal failure’: MP slams law change as crime spikes
A vocal member of parliament says the numbers "don't lie" in shocking new police statistics that show a huge spike in property crime since law changes for juvenile offenders.
Queensland Police data showed a 45 per cent increase in property crime, including car theft and unlawful entry, in the period since changes were made to the Youth Justice Act.
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper dodged the Townsville Bulletin's questions about the possible connection, but Burdekin MP Dale Last said the amendment was a "dismal failure".
Since the amendments were made in December, Townsville police have responded to 1448 incidents of property crime.
In the same period from December, 2018 to March last year, 997 property crime incidents were recorded in the Townsville Local Government Area. Townsville District Acting Chief Superintendent Glen Pointing acknowledged there was a spike, but could not comment on a possible connection with the law changes.
He said the rise in property crime could be put down to a core group of juvenile, recidivist offenders who were often bailed or released from Cleveland Juvenile Detention Centre after a short time.
The intention of the amendments to the Youth Justice Act, which came into effect in December, were to keep children out of detention, and while this has been achieved, police have questioned if politicians realised the impact they would have in places like Townsville.
Labor MPs, including Mr Harper, defended the changes saying Section 48 of the Act ensures those who pose a serious risk will not be released on bail. Mr Harper acknowledged the city was in the midst of a crime spike, condemning the actions of juveniles and blaming their parents.
"I hear of people buying booze, tobacco, or gambling, when they ought to be buying food and clothing for their families and keeping them safe in a home environment," he said.
"The law clearly states that a young person can be remanded in custody if there is an unacceptable risk of the young person committing an offence or endangering the safety or welfare of a person." Mr Harper said Townsville crime rates had risen and fallen naturally in the past.
He did not address questions about a possible connection between the legislation changes and the spike, or how the changes had affected Townsville.
Mr Last said the amendment "experiment" was a "dismal failure".
"Clearly this Labor State Government is misleading our community," he said.
"Their consistent message that changes to the Youth Justice Act are having a positive effect on youth crime is clearly untrue." Mr Last said ministers needed to "pull their heads out of the sand".
Act Chief Supt Pointing said he recorded a 20 per cent increase in property crime in the past 12 months.
He said the core offenders, which consisted of about 12 juveniles, came from severely traumatic family situations.
"A lot of these kids come from pretty broken backgrounds," he said. Act Supt Pointing said while he welcomed more police officers, the solution ran deeper.