More police and stronger community partnerships with local police were two of the major recommendations from a crime forum in Peregian Springs last week.
More than 50 local residents gathered at Peregian Springs State School Hall to share their concerns about community safety after a recent spate of crimes in the area. It also addressed local youth crime concerns, just weeks after the state government controversially fast-tracked changes to Queensland’s youth justice laws.
Ninderry MP Dan Purdie, who hosted the forum after being approached by local residents, says the theme of the evening was to improve community safety and awareness. “The forum was an opportunity for residents to share their concerns, but also hear from our local police and community policing partners, including Crimestoppers, about what they can do to prevent crime before it happens,” Mr Purdie says.
Chief Inspector of Police John Van Egmond says the forum was an excellent way for the police to engage with the community, including addressing the perceptions of crime in the local area.
“There’s always things we can improve, such as the reporting of crime and increased security,” Chief Inspector Van Egmond says.
“We always talk about vehicle and house security, locking your cars, locking your house– we say it a fair bit.”
Mr Purdie says local police are doing the best they can with the resources they have.
“I was on the front line in 2015 to 2017 here on the Sunshine Coast and I saw firsthand how the watering down of youth justice laws tipped the balance of power into the hands of juvenile offenders, and unfortunately communities across the Coast and across the state are paying the price for that.
“Some of our local police stations here on the Coast are operating at less than 50 per cent capacity and in that time, the population has doubled. So, we’ve got twice as much work being done by half the number of police, with weaker laws.
“There’s no riddle as to why crime is going through the roof.”
The state government revealed in Budget Estimates on August 9 this year that in the previous financial year, there were 483 new police recruits across Queensland. However, 685 left the service, meaning overall police numbers fell by more than 200.
In May, the Queensland Police Service announced a raft of new financial incentives to encourage more people to consider a career within the force, with the Budget Estimates revealing more than 1300 applicants in the recruit pipeline.
However, District Officer Superintendent Craig Hawkins confirmed to My Weekly Preview that there were no first-year recruits to the Sunshine Coast District in the past financial year.
Last week, QPS also launched its major marketing campaign: “Challenging, Rewarding, Policing” to boost numbers on the frontline. Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll says the campaign was months in the making.
“We are recruiting passionate people from all backgrounds who want to make a difference and provide world-class policing services to our communities across Queensland,” she says.
Queensland’s Youth Justice Act amendments
On August 24 this year, urgent amendments to the Youth Justice Act 1992 were passed by state parliament.
The changes will allow contingencies for police watchhouses and adult prisons to be used as youth detention centres. However, the amendment has been criticised by some as an “abuse of human rights”.
The Palaszczuk government defended what it called “urgent” amendments to youth justice laws, while the Opposition and Greens criticised Labor for rushing them through parliament without proper scrutiny. The changes were among a raft of surprise amendments Police Minister Mark Ryan introduced that were attached to a child safety bill.
“The amendments will override the Human Rights Act for the establishment of youth detention centres to allow a detention centre to be established at a police watchhouse or part of a corrective services facility,” Mr Ryan told parliament.
“It will ensure that immediate capacity issues can be addressed while young people are held safely.”
He said the “time-limited” changes would be used only in extraordinary circumstances until the state opened two new youth detention centres in 2026.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer defended the watchhouse changes, saying they merely formalised a practice that had been in place for 30 years. The Queensland Human Rights Council and the Queensland Law Society are among the critics.
“In a watchhouse, a child can be exposed to violent and anti-social adult behaviour that can be harmful and compound their trauma and they don’t receive the intensive, rehabilitative support they need to address the causes of their offending,” Queensland Family and Child Commissioners Natalie Lewis and Luke Twyford say. – AAP.