9 March, 2023
Mayor speaks at public hearing into crime crisis
MAREEBA’S crime crisis was in the spotlight last week when Mayor Angela Toppin spoke strongly at the public hearings on the State Government’s Community Safety Bill of the need for legislative change and more resources to address the “root causes” behind the criminal behaviour of young people.
“The crime crisis is causing fear and division across Queensland communities and change are needed, now,” she told the hearing in Cairns.
“As Mayor of a Local Government Authority, I enjoy the privilege of working with the Queensland Police Service, Youth Justice and local support services and agencies, but I also suffer the heartbreak of being directly connected to the community; connected to victims of crime; connected to bereft families and lost young people.
“Sadly, many of these young people are suffering the dire impacts of domestic and family violence, homelessness, and inter-generational trauma.
“This is a familiar story, shared by Mayors across Queensland and, while these young people need significant support, it is clear the current youth crime laws, programs and solutions are not having the desired effect.”
She made it clear that the community was fed up with the ongoing crime plaguing Mareeba. “Put simply, the increase in the level and frequency of youth crime and anti-social behaviour in our community is not acceptable,” she said.
“Community sentiment has been rising in recent years and the message is clear, that the current consequences for youth offenders are minimal and serve as no deterrent.”
Mayor Toppin said it appeared the proposed changes in the Bill and the amendments to the Bail Act 1980, the Queensland Criminal Code, the Youth Justice Act 1992 and the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 would go some way towards addressing the issues which are most prevalent in youth offending.
But she also pleaded for more resourcing for police.
“The local Queensland Police Service does a remarkable job with the resources that are currently available, but I suggest that more resources are required, now,” she said.
She also welcomed the inclusion of multi-agency collaborative panels (MACPs) in the legislation and warned that a “solely punitive approach” would not create the lasting change that was needed.
“It is widely recognised that youth crime is often a manifestation of socio-economic disadvantage experienced by young people and their families and I expect that by providing for genuine collaboration and the sharing of information, the children and families will have the best chance of receiving support which addresses their specific needs,” Mayor Toppin said.
“I urge the Queensland government to start thinking outside the box to identify new solutions that will have the long-term effect of reducing offending.”
Mareeba Shire Council introduced a motion at the 2022 LGAQ Annual Conference calling on the Queensland Government to introduce diversionary facilities on more remote state-owned properties where young people who had started falling foul of the law could be sent to gain both social and technical skills rather than be sent to youth detention facilities.
“This option could not be available to hardened recidivist offenders but, this sentencing option would give certain young people a chance to learn both social and technical skills so when they are released, they can pursue meaningful employment and become a productive member of society,” Mayor Toppin said.
“Mareeba Shire Council calls on the Queensland Government to explore this option as a potential solution to addressing the state-wide crime crisis – an additional string in the bow.”
The public hearing into the Bill was welcomed by Member for Hill Shane Knuth who says the Far North had suffered escalating crime rates across all communities for years.
“Queenslanders are now rising up and have had a gutful,” he said.
“They have been warning the government for eight years and now it has gotten to the point that it will take a decade to pull it back to where it was.
“The reality is the Bill, in its current form, will nowhere near go far enough. It needs to be strengthened and harsher penalties put in place to correct the issue.”