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7 December, 2021

Residents set to rally against Mareeba crime

A PUBLIC rally will be held in Mareeba later this month amidst growing concern about breakins, vehicle thefts, vandalism and damage happening on a daily basis.

By Robyn Holmes

Photo: Dreamstime

Just over the weekend, several businesses were targeted in Byrnes Street and others the Mareeba area, with windows smashed and the town’s Christmas tree vandalised. And in the last seven days, the disparity in crime between the region’s two largest urban centres continued, with 60 offences recorded in Mareeba versus 14 in Atherton. 

Mareeba Chamber of Commerce has joined with the local council in demanding “urgent action” from the State Government to tackle the criminal behaviour and the social issues that contribute to it. 

President Joe Moro said the growing incidences of crime was detrimental to the town’s reputation and to the safety and amenity of its citizens. “We have a problem in Mareeba, but we also have a Statewide problem – it’s happening in Cairns and Townsville as well and the State Government is missing in action,” he said. 

“We need to break the cycle of crime because mostly it’s kids and those kids should not be on the streets at night but the problem also lies with their parents who must be made to be responsible,” he said. 

“We need a Statewide solution to this and we need to do something now.” 

Mr Moro is concerned that the town’s reputation as a safe place to live is in jeopardy and the impact upon businesses is concerning. 

“The last thing we want is for businesses to shut down because they can’t cope with another break-in – it costs businesses to clean up and then there is the frustration factor as well,” he said. 

Mr Moro believes a curfew for youth could be a start but added there would have to be a safe place for place to take young people who did not want to be taken home. 

“We need to break the back of this – if we had a curfew police could take them off the streets, but we need a safe place for them to go and a place where they can access programs to get them on the right path – but we also need to target the parents,” he said. 

Mr Moro said he was concerned that if more action was not taken, he feared it may lead to vigilantism by residents who have had enough. 

“There’s a lot of older people who don’t feel safe and when your home is broken into, you feel violated – it’s a big problem and we need our State member Cynthia Lui to take urgent action.” 

Mareeba Shire Mayor Angela Toppin said council was urging the State to intervene. 

“The time has come for an urgent review of the judicial response to youth crime, and of the support services available to young people,” she said. 

“Council works closely with the police and we understand that most of the crime committed in Mareeba is by a small group of highly disadvantaged young people who need a very high level of support in order to stop the cycle of recidivism.”

Member for Kennedy Bob Katter said his party had been tirelessly and continually advocating for relocation sentencing as the solution to youth crime. 

Under the relocation sentencing proposal, Magistrates would be given the option to send youth offenders to relocation facilities in remote areas like Kajabbi (north of Mount Isa) and Musgrave in Cape York. 

“The youth will build their own housing at the relocation facilities. There won’t be security fencing and if they try to run away, they won’t get far, they’ll be in the middle of nowhere. Those kids will go up to the relocation centres and they will come back with fencing skills, block laying skills, fruit picking skills and there will be a pathway into permanent jobs when they return,” he said. 

“The ALP’s current policy sees the kids go straight back onto the street to commit more crime. Finding these kids guilty in court is a waste of time because there’s no way to punish them. 

“The LNP want to send the kids to youth detention centre in Townsville. Well Townsville’s youth detention centre is full. The jails are full. And to expand them will come at an astronomical cost compared to relocation sentencing.” 

Rally organiser and former fire chief Denis McKinley says the whole community must put pressure on the State Government so they will take action and agrees that a curfew must be considered for youths 16 years and younger. 

“Over the past five years, there has been an increase in unacceptable behaviour and I want to bring about public discussion on how we can curtail this behaviour which is escalating,” he said. 

Topics for discussion at the rally, to be held at Davies Park on 19 December, include the justice system which he says is not working, alcohol restrictions, a youth curfew, graffiti and damage to public infrastructure, and the reputational damage to Mareeba as an RV friendly town. 

The rally in Mareeba will be held at Davies Park on 19 December, starting at 12.30pm.

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