13 April 2024

Letter from the Editor: Urgent action needed before youth crime spree ends in death

| Lyndon Keane

Is it going to take a death before family, friends and senior community members step up to hold alleged youth offenders accountable for their pointless, malicious actions? Photo: Instagram.

If you need proof the Queensland Government has no answer to the youth crime crisis currently swamping the state in a tide of infuriated business owners, scared victims and frustrated police, you need only look towards Weipa over the past month.

The latest incident on 2 April, during which police allege a 15-year-old and two 14-year-old offenders stole a four-wheel drive and caused wanton damage to a Rocky Point business, ended when the driver crashed through a fence at speed and into a house in Golf Links Estate.

It is sheer luck that no one was killed, especially the couple whose master bedroom was on the other side of the wall that stopped the 2,300-kilogram, Toyota-badged missile. You only have to look at the photo on the front page of this paper to see part of the Colorbond fence speared through the front wheel arch of the vehicle to get an idea of how much force was involved.

One of the victims described the incident as being “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for Weipa, which is probably a fair read of community sentiment at this point in the game.

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One of the things a number of victims – and police – have told me is that the alleged crime sprees are being carried out by the same band of offenders. This publication understands these offenders are part of the group posting and boasting about their criminal exploits on Instagram, which we reported on just a fortnight ago.

While it may only be a small group of youth committing the alleged offences, the social media footage shows them being lauded and egged on by community members as they drive stolen vehicles dangerously, often only metres from the gaggle of spectators. Unfortunately, many adults can be seen whooping and filming the offenders on their mobile phones.

Why aren’t these adults, the family and friends of the offenders, and senior community leaders up in arms about the behaviour, and the impact it’s having on western Cape York?

Youth crime isn’t isolated to our part of the world. It’s completely out of hand across the state, with the government ostensibly clueless about how to respond. Our youth justice system is broken, and there’s enough evidence to show just locking problem kids up isn’t the answer.

Pundits have turned the issue into an overinflated political football, especially ahead of October’s state election, but where is the outrage and genuine attempts to stop the crisis from those closest to the offenders?

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About six weeks ago, I wrote it was time for community stakeholders funded by the State and Federal Governments to put up and deliver some tangible outcomes, or risk having their gravy train derailed. Strangely enough, those funded on Cape York to support social and community justice initiatives have been conspicuous by their silence regarding youth crime. Do they not have useful input, or is it just many don’t care, because it’s difficult to have your vehicle stolen or property broken into when you jump on the big metal bird and head home every Friday afternoon?

These youth offenders clearly aren’t prepared to consider the impact of their actions, let alone be accountable for them, so it’s time for those close to them and the leaders of their communities to take whatever steps are needed to bring the madness to a stop.

These stakeholders need to work with the government and relevant funded organisations to work out why it’s happening and how to fix the root cause, and say “no more” to this dangerous antisocial behaviour that’s putting lives at risk.

Enough is enough. The victims of these crimes deserve better. Our police deserve better. Our communities deserve better. Even these young offenders deserve better.

We need a solution and we need it now. If we don’t get one, it’s only a matter of time before we are mourning a tragic loss of life, rather than just cursing another vehicle being stolen or property broken into.

It was sheer luck neither the drivers of the allegedly stolen Toyota Prado nor the residents of this Golf Links Estate house were injured – or worse – in the early hours of 2 April, 2024. Photo: Supplied.

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