Frequently asked questions: Townsville youth crime

Rate of youth crime

The following information is based on statistics for the Townsville local government area.

Q. What percentage of Townsville’s youth population was charged with an offence in 2016–17?

One per cent of Townsville’s youth population (aged 10–16) was charged with an offence in 2016–17.

Thirty children were responsible for half of all offending by youth in the region.

Most children who commit a crime do so once and then stop offending of their own volition while in their youth.

In Townsville, more than 60 per cent of children who receive a police caution do not come into contact with the justice system again.

Q: How many offences are committed by 10–16 year olds in Townsville?

A total of 1523 proven offences committed by children (aged 10–16) in Townsville were finalised in court during 2016–17.

This is a 17 per cent reduction on the previous year. Since 2012–13, proven offences in Townsville have decreased by 32 per cent.

The rate of young people in Townsville with at least one proven offence was 12.3 per 1000 children, compared with 8.1 Queensland-wide.

A total of 220 children had one or more proven offences in 2016–17. This is a 6 per cent reduction since 2015–16.

Q. What are the main crimes committed by 10–16 year olds in Townsville?

Young offenders in Townsville are mainly committing property offences, comprised mostly of theft and related offences.

In 2016–17, car thefts comprised 17 per cent of all proven offences, compared with 8 per cent Queensland-wide.

Violent offences accounted for 7 per cent of proven offences committed by 10–16 year olds in Townsville over the same 12-month period.

Actions to tackle youth crime

Q: What extra policing resources have been put in place?

Front line policing, including work by the Queensland Police Service Rapid Action and Patrol team in Townsville, plays a key role in tackling youth crime.

Thirty extra police were deployed to Townsville during Operation Oscar Merchant in mid–October 2016 for 30 days, with 10 of these police remaining in the city until early February 2017.

Q: What extra measures are being taken to deal with young repeat offenders?

Policing is not enough on its own to deal with youth crime.

In February 2017, the Queensland Government rolled out the Community Youth Response to target a core group of high risk repeat offenders in Townsville.

This response includes:

  • Specialist High Risk Children’s Court List: This was introduced in the Children’s Court and means young repeat offenders will appear before the same magistrate who can tailor court orders to respond to the individual’s specific family circumstances. They will also apply penalties that fit the crime. Sentencing options that ensure children are giving back to the community will be prioritised. Magistrates can also order children to participate in education and training.
  • After-hours safe place: A safe place has been established for children after hours, and will initially be located at the Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Service.
  • Intensive case management: Repeat offenders and their families are being allocated Department of Justice case managers who will work intensively with them to ensure adequate supervision, arrange counselling, and devise personalised problem-solving strategies. This intensive case management model has been successfully trialled in Caboolture.
  • Vocational training:  The Department of Justice’s Transition to Success program — which has been delivering vocational skills to children and those considered at risk — has been expanded to focus on a high-risk group of young repeat offenders. The program has been successful in transitioning children into long-term education and vocation outcomes. They have also been linked into the Skilling Queenslanders for Work initiative.
  • Education: Further investment is being made to deliver a flexi-school program to children who do not fit into mainstream education.  
  • Cultural mentoring: Elders and the Townsville Aboriginal Islander and Health Service are being helped to connect young Indigenous offenders with their culture and to provide positive role models.

Q: What other measures are in place to help break the cycle of youth crime in Townsville?

Almost every child who comes into the youth justice system has a history of complex trauma. This includes physical or sexual abuse, neglect or domestic violence — this contributes to their offending behaviour.

More than 80 per cent of young people in the youth justice system are known to the child protection system.

To achieve rehabilitation that eliminates offending, these traumas must be taken into consideration.

A wide range of government actions are in place, including:

  • Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group:  Formed in late 2016, the multi-agency group brings together senior staff from seven agencies, including the Queensland Police, to help tackle the underlying issues of youth offending. The group works closely with at-risk children and their families to coordinate services on issues such as mental health, housing, and poor parenting support.
  • Curfews: Youth Justice staff are increasingly including curfew conditions for high risk offenders who are leaving detention and are subject to a supervised release order. In these cases, police monitor the child’s curfew and report instances of non-compliance.
  • Community reparation: If a child is found guilty of an offence, a court can order them to do unpaid work in the community for a certain number of hours. The Queensland Government organises for the work to take place. Restorative justice conferences  are also used and involve a meeting between an offender who has admitted an offence and the people most affected by that crime. These enable offenders to take responsibility and for victims to have a say in the penalty the offender will receive.
  • Behaviour programs: Various programs are in place to change behaviour such as anger and aggression and anti-social habits.
  • Motor vehicle offender program: Called Reverse, the program seeks to reduce the risk of children stealing cars. This includes working closely with the Queensland Police Crash Unit and Queensland Fire and Rescue to help children understand the consequences of joyriding in motor vehicles.
  • Literacy-focused education: Alternative schooling is available for 13–15 year olds who are leaving detention and have low literacy skills.
  • Project Booyah: This police-led mentoring program has been given permanent funding, and helps young people who have disengaged from school and those who have come into contact with the youth justice system. Project Booyah equips young people with job skills through training in workplaces. It also provides community and family interventions, and youth support. Graduates are mentored until they are 18 years of age.
  • Supervised accommodation: The Queensland Government funds Mission Australia to provide 24 hour/seven day a week supervised accommodation for young males leaving detention who are at high risk of homelessness. The services help young people to develop the skills they need to become independent in their own homes or to reconnect with family.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services: A dedicated cultural unit situated in the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville provides culturally appropriate services and programs to help children prepare to reintegrate into the community.