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  • Writer's pictureBruce Giddings

Youth Crime In Moreton Bay

Youth crime is front page news in Moreton Bay and a kitchen table conversation topic that causes significant angst in the community. Footage on TV and social media showcases a parade of young people breaking into homes and stealing cars.


But Moreton Bay compares well against many other Queensland local government areas (LGAs) for the number of crimes committed across every age group when adjusted for population size, according to Queensland Police and Australian Bureau of Statistics data.


In 2022, Moreton Bay placed in the 26th percentile, performing marginally ahead of Brisbane, Ipswich, Somerset and the Gold Coast and well ahead of the Toowoomba LGA. In last place was Mt Isa, with 6113 crimes committed in a city of only 18,776 people.



Youth Crime in Moreton Bay


There were 10,878 offenders aged between 10 and 17 years in Queensland for 2022-23 year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an increase of 6% in raw numbers year on year.


According to official Queensland Police Service Statistics, offenders under the age of eighteen make up less than 20% of all offenders across Queensland, and other sources show that Moreton Bay is similar.


Four out of five crimes committed in Queensland involve adults between the ages of 18 and 49. These adults are more likely to be committing violent acts, causing disturbances, or becoming involved in drug-related activities than those under eighteen.


“We empathise with communities that have been impacted by increasing rates of youth crime, and we implore the government to implement solutions that will result in a long-term reduction in crime.

A closer look at the crime statistics for young wrongdoers reveals that only 10% of these youth offenders accounted for more than half of all break and enter, robbery and stolen vehicle offences during the year, meaning a relatively small number of perpetrators have been committing multiple offences, according to the ABS. It is a case of a relatively small number of offenders causing a lot of havoc.


There are multiple reasons why kids end up on the wrong side of the law.


Professionals who work with troubled and disadvantaged young people every day gain insights as they deal with everything from family dysfunction, societal influences and government failures.


Young offenders are an easy target for voracious media and politicians who are manoeuvring to be seen in a favourable light by the public.


Executive Director of Redcliffe Youth Space (RAYS), Amy Mayes, says that the discussion of youth crime in the media sells more newspapers and fills more news slots, with much of the information being sourced from spin doctors employed by politicians and bureaucrats.


“I am sure with the state election coming up later this year, the public will see and hear even more coverage about youth crime from every direction,” Amy says.


“Politicians from both sides use the topic of youth crime to advance a particular narrative and distract from their own inadequacies. Young people who have already been let down by family dysfunction, government institutions and broader society are a soft target.”


Amy says governments should better fund state government-run institutions instead of publicly punishing kids for government failures.


“As an example, we know of kids in years two, three and four failing to go to school,” she says. “This disengagement with the education system is an early cry for help from these kids. This is where the system used to kick in. But the Child Safety people, who used to look after truancy and school disengagement, are way under-resourced, and just cannot follow up.”


Despite these deficiencies, statistics from the ABS show that current youth crime rates (population growth adjusted) have been on a downward trend since 2012. Crime is trending down, even allowing for a Covid lockdown blip. The recent increase in offending represents a return to the long-term trend.


But while the numbers are falling in Moreton Bay and across the state (adjusted for population growth) the mayhem is more visible due to social media.


Some young people crave fame and notoriety within their own peer group and work hard at getting their crime in front of a large audience via social media. From there the footage is used by mainstream TV networks to fill their news slots.


The crime on social media is cheap fodder for TV news. Sometimes the perpetrator or a friend will supply footage while other times the victims of crime will supply doorbell or security footage of the action.


Griffith University criminologist Ross Homel speculates that social media are "crime facilitators". He quotes the example of a child posting a picture from a stolen car with the speedometer showing 191 kilometres per hour, a demonstration of how social media platforms can publicise bad behaviour to peers of the perpetrators, thus glamourising the behaviour and facilitating the next crime.


According to Allen Ellis, Program Manager with Redcliffe Youth Space (RAYS), the mainstream broadcast and social media are complicit in this antisocial behaviour and are also responsible for stoking a community fear of young people while they chase readership and ratings.


“Most young offenders are poor, disadvantaged and alienated from broader society, and need help, not obstacles,” Allen says.


A recent study on youth justice shed light on the challenges faced by young people who break the law.


Many of them struggle with issues like not having a stable place to live, using drugs, feeling depressed or anxious, or not going to school.


Professionals like Amy Mayes and Allen Elis who work on the front lines at RAYS believe there should be an emphasis on special programs and school initiatives to help these kids and their families.


They are not the only ones. Queensland Law Society believes an urgent injection of funds is needed to address the root causes of child offending, such as family violence, substance abuse,  health including mental health, and Queensland's lagging performance in education.


The Queensland government has recently toughened the laws, bringing in stronger penalties for wrongdoers.


However, a debate has ensued, with some people, like Queensland Law Society President Chloé Kopilović, arguing that the government’s tough stance on youth crime does not address the issue.


“Locking up children will not stop crime,” Ms Kopilović says. “It has been proven that after a child’s first interaction with the youth justice system they are more likely to reoffend. Further to this, the longer a child spends in custody, the more likely they are to be pipelined into the adult criminal justice system. And this is no place for them to be.


“We empathise with communities that have been impacted by increasing rates of youth crime, and we implore the government to implement solutions that will result in a long-term reduction in crime.


“Justice reinvestment works by diverting funds that would ordinarily be spent on keeping individuals in prisons to communities with high rates of offending and incarceration, giving those communities the capacity to invest in programs and services that address the underlying causes of crime.”


The Redcliffe Youth Space at 440 Oxley Avenue can trace its roots back to The Humpybong Youth Space which was established in 2001. It has been operating at 440 Oxley Avenue as a Community Youth Service Provider since 2005.  RAYS is a registered charity that offers early intervention programs, mental health outreach, flexible learning and work skills training.


Enquiries can be made by phone on 0732838769 or by emailing info@redcliffeyouthspace.org

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