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10 February, 2021

Sick and tired of crime

Tablelands residents fed up with the increase in youth crime across rallied together on Friday and Saturday in a show of solidarity that they have had enough.

By Phil Brandel

Bill Cohen from the Crime And Justice Group Tablelands speaking at Fridays rally

About 200 people met at Arnold Park in Mareeba last Friday in the first of two rallies aimed at addressing the ongoing youth crime problem that is happening across Far North Queensland. Attendees got to hear from speakers from the Crime and Justice Action Group, Politicians, and other concerned residents.

Spokesperson for The Crime and Justice Action Group Aaron McLeod said that it was great that so many people showed up, listened, and got to be heard.

“Today we are proving a platform for people to voice their concerns and bring up some ideas and for the community to come together for the common good," he said. 

“The ultimate goal is that we need to bring about reform, through youth justice, we need to bring about a structural change about the way youth crime is handled."

Mr McLeod claimed that youth crime, property crime and personal crime are all trending up and that the government does not know how to deal with it.

“If I could change anything overnight, it would be to create an accessory to offence charge in legislation. Which would mean that we would target the institution that is meant to be responsible for the children, parents, and guardians,” he said.

“We are not targeting the kids but saying to the parents, it’s your responsibility.

“We want that provision put into legislation straight away.”

Indigenous Australian Joanne Boyd said that the current way of addressing youth crime was not working.

“We don’t want to keep on depending on the government, we want to fundraise for recreational equipment for the kids,” she said.

“A lot of youth crime comes down to boredom, there’s nothing for them to do and there’s minimal public transport.”

Ms Boyd said that throwing money at the problem was not going to solve anything. “We keep seeing parents and kids in trouble and we keep pouring in money,” she said.

“If it was me personally, if I was putting money into something that wasn’t working, there is no way I would keep putting more in.

“If the kids are still getting into trouble where is all the money going, nobody asks where is all the money is going?"

Ms Boyd said intervention programs needed to be rolled out in primary schools.

“There’s nothing in primary schools to catch the kids,” she said.

“The PCYC can’t any get funding for 13’s and over and by then it’s too late.

“They have it back to front. They only get intensive support when they enter the justice system. That is not the time to catch the kids, by then it is too late.

“They needed help before they entered the justice system.”

Mareeba Mayor Angela Toppin said the recent criminal activity was causing angst within the community.

“We share the concerns of residents and business owners regarding the recent increase in crime and antisocial behaviour,” Cr Toppin said.

“The number of thefts, break-ins and acts of vandalism is simply unacceptable.

“While these issues fall outside Council’s powers, we are certainly advocating on behalf of the community.

Cr Toppin said she was in regular contact with multiple organisations and State agencies, including the Queensland Police and the local Member Cynthia Lui, to tackle the issue.

“This week I have met with the local Acting Police Inspector and I took the opportunity to meet with Ms Lui at her mobile office in Mareeba,” Cr Toppin said.

 “I will continue to be in regular contact with the local Member and I am hopeful that she can coordinate the multiple agencies and organisations to work together and bring about positive change in our community.”

Cook MP Cynthia Lui and Kennedy MP Bob Katter sent their apologies Hill for Friday's rally.  

On Saturday January 6, the second anti-crime rally took place at Railway Lane in Atherton with about 100 residents turning up to have their say about the increase in local crime.

MP Shane Knuth attended both rallies and said It was frustrating to see the same criminals hijacking cars, stealing purses, and breaking and entering into homes and business”.

“Many of these offenders are already out on bail for similar or other offences.  “Obviously, what is in place now is not working. Enough is enough.”  

Mr Knuth said he will be strongly advocating for the KAP Relocation Sentencing Policy which aims to banish repeat offenders from our communities to remote locations and put them to work to learn skills to break the crime cycle.  

“The recent incidents of crime are unacceptable and must be addressed to make our communities safer,” Mr Knuth said.  

Tablelands Regional Council councillor Bernie Wilce said the impacts of recent juvenile-led crime had rocked the communities’ sense of safety.  

“We will be working closely with our State and Federal members to look at a reform of the Juvenile Justice Act as harsher penalties are required to stem these types of activities,” Cr Wilce said.  

“This includes the criteria used by magistrates and watch housekeepers when considering granting bail to repeat offenders, juvenile or adult. It is beyond belief that a young person from our community has allegedly stolen four cars in a 24-hour period and had been arrested twice in ten days.  

“Something has to change to deter youth crime.” 


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