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18 January, 2022

Pressure mounts for crime action

ORGANISERS of Mareeba’s crime rally held late last year will be front and centre at this week’s Mareeba Shire Council meeting to see what, if anything, the organisation is prepared to do to help reduce crime in the town.

By Robyn Holmes

Crime continues to impact upon residents with almost daily reports on Facebook pages of vehicle thefts, break-ins and antisocial behaviour as well as reports of juveniles casing streets to fi nd opportunities to steal cars or enter homes – some in broad daylight. 

Juveniles committing the crimes are now flaunting their “achievements” via a new Instagram page – Mbaa_crimes_page – which they use to brag about their actions. 

Crime rally convenor Denis McKinley along with residents Barry Simpson, Bob Neate, Ken Harley, Greg Williams and crime victim Joan Moore OAM will attend the council meeting on Wednesday morning to hear first-hand what actions the council is prepared to take from the raft of resolutions passed at the public crime rally on 19 December. 

The group want the council to officially endorse the resolutions – some of which can only be actioned by the State Government and others that could be implemented by council – and advocate strongly to the State for changes to the Justice Act and punishment models. 

The resolutions included four key actions for council: 

  • Work with Queensland Police to introduce a youth curfew from 10pm to 6am; 
  • Immediately establish an Alcohol Free Zone in the area between Mareeba Heritage Park in the south to Rotary Park in the north and from the Railway reserve in the west up to and including Walsh Street in the east (excluding hotels); 
  • Fund after-hours security patrols of the CBD between 10am and 6am from the Benefitted Area Fund, with patrol officers to work hand in hand with local police to get quick responses to graffiti, other property damage or theft in business premises; and 
  • Reinstate CCTV surveillance of the town’s CBD. 

Mr McKinley said incidences of crime, particularly break-ins and vehicle theft, had continued unabashed over recent weeks and Mareeba citizens were close to breaking point. 

“I have lived here since I was a small child and I have never seen crime it like this,” he said. 

“If this is the standard we are prepared to walk by and drive past every day, then that becomes the standard we’ve accepted as a community and that would be very sad for this town.” 

He pleaded with community leaders to “stand up, grow a backbone and lead the community” before Mareeba gained an unenviable reputation as a crime town. 

“If this keeps going and escalating, there will be a direct economic impact on the valuation of your property and businesses won’t want to establish here if they are going to get broken into every week or have graffiti painted all over their buildings which they have to pay to clean off ,” Mr McKinley said. 

He insists that if council took action under its jurisdiction, it could help to reduce crime, but it would take action from the State to really make a difference in the long-term. 

“We can do what we can but then the State Government must act to make changes to the Youth Justice Act and look at alternative punishment options because at the moment, they go into detention centres as punishment and come out a better criminal,” Mr McKinley said. 

Local resident and businessman Greg Williams agrees that changes must be made to break the cycle and equip young off enders with skills they could use to become a productive member of society. 

He cited the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility in the United States as a case in point. 

The centre requires inmates to participate in educational program, gives them an opportunity to take on college courses, recreational programs, and even a program that allows for an inmate to train a rescue dog before the dog is placed with a family. 

“We need some sort of facility where these kids can go, learn skills and come out a better person,” Mr Williams said. 

He is also advocating for a reference group to be established so council, police and residents can keep the communication channels open. 

“We really need something to happen because if it doesn’t, I fear people will start taking the law into their own hands.”

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