More than 50 service providers gathered last week (10 August) to brainstorm solutions and support for struggling children and families after a spike in property crime and car thefts in Cooktown.
Cooktown has suffered an ongoing crime wave since late 2022, with car jackings, jewellery heists and armed burglars threatening and even attacking hospital workers and business people during the numerous incidents.
Cape York Weekly reported in November on the ongoing crime wave in Cooktown, which included four cars stolen, masked and armed intruders terrorising nurses in the Cooktown Hospital and multiple break ins across town in a four week period.
The crimewave continued in early 2023, with the Ampol service station broken into two nights in a row, windows smashed in parked cars, an attempted break in at another business, vandalism at Sherrin Esplanade and grog stolen from the Sovereign Resort Hotel after a late-night break in.
Endeavour Lions Club member and local father Justin Coventry said the group wanted to find solutions before the problem escalated further, and met with Cook Shire Mayor Peter Scott.
“We wanted Lions to be part of the solution, so we went to Peter Scott and it all snowballed from there,” Mr Coventry said of the giant youth forum.
“The forum was awesome, everyone was so passionate to get something done and it was amazing just to see how many different services were there to be part of the solution, not just whinge about it – we’re looking to help.”
Cr Scott agreed, saying the turnout and enthusiasm shown by service providers was heartwarming.
“There was a lot of discussion and some great ideas, and what we’re looking at is a working group to carry things forward,” he said.
“Communication was highlighted as a key opportunity – there are so many things going on, Lions Club, junior rangers, fishing club, we just need to get that support to the kids.
“I like to think that it’ll get to the stage where we can identify kids who are starting to go off the rails and approach them individually to find out their issues and find out what we can do to support them and their family.”
Cr Scott also said data didn’t show there was an issue with youth crime in Cooktown.
“We’ve identified that the numbers are really low in Cooktown, it’s often just one bad egg leading others astray and if we can case manage those kids, we can have a positive impact,” he said.
The forum was held at the PCYC Events Centre and brought together government agencies, not for profit groups, service providers and community members from Hope Vale, Wujal Wujal and Cooktown.
The forum was facilitated by regional director of Far North Queensland Youth Justice Tracey Harding.
“It was inspiring to see such a large and diverse group of stakeholders there to discuss issues using logic and facts to work together to identify what we can do to support young people and families,” Ms Harding said.
“While the discussions during the day indicated that there’s not a youth crime wave in Cooktown, every community member has the right to feel safe and business people have the right to not have to continue repairing damage.
“The positive message that came out of the forum is that there are a whole bunch of people willing to work together to support young people and families and community and reduce what is happening so we have a safe and happy generation of kids.
“The way we approach it is to see what the underlying causes of the behaviour are and how to prevent that – bad behaviour doesn’t equal a bad person, it is sometimes the product of a whole range of very, very complicated circumstances.”