By Trish Bowman
A spike in youth crime in central Queensland prompted concerned resident Tamara Jensen to host a community meeting held in Yeppoon over the weekend.
Around 150 people gathered at the Yeppoon Foreshore Amphitheater on Saturday July 23, including police, the Mayor and Councilors of Livingstone Shire, MP for Keppel Brittany Lauga, Senator Matt Canavan and members of the community who are frustrated with the increase in juvenile criminal offenses on the coast.
The day saw several speakers with the opportunity to ask questions and share advice.
Ms Jensen said her husband works seven hours a week so she is often home alone and fears for her safety.
“We have to take control of the areas that we can control, we also have to support each other.
“I wanted to find a way for people to connect and share safety tips so we can all feel safer in our homes and workplaces.”
Police Inspector Mark Burgess said he understands how upsetting and traumatic being the victim of crime can be.
“Overall, the Capricorn Coast is still below the state’s average rate of theft, assault, and illegal use, which doesn’t make it any easier,” Inspector Burgess said.
“What we are seeing are weather spikes in the area.
“These offenders are looking for an easy score, they walk the streets checking car doors, open windows and access points.
“I understand, most of my officers choose to live on the coast, it is beautiful here and we all like to open the windows and let the cool breeze in, but we need to secure our homes to minimize the risk of opportunists taking advantage of it. .
“We know people are frustrated, but it’s our responsibility to catch these people.
“I implore people not to take this into their own hands, it could end very badly.
“Help us help you by locking up, don’t leave anything lying around, hook up a CCTV system if you can, inexpensive systems are available from Bunnings and remember we rely on all the evidence available.
“The more evidence we have, the greater the chance of apprehending these offenders.
“Write things down as they happen while you remember all the details, take pictures on your phone, and most importantly, report all incidents to the police.”
Inspector Burgess said that in the past fiscal year, seventy incidents were reported to police on the Capricorn Coast, or about 1.5 incidents per week.
“Since the start of the new financial year on July 1, 2022, there have been ten incidents reported, (there were more over the weekend) the number is going back and forth,” he said.
“Most of the reported offenses do not involve offenders from the coast, most are from Rockhampton and other areas.
“It is important to report these incidents so that we can ensure that our officers are patrolling the correct areas.
“We are considering more community crime prevention sessions to help people gain some control.”
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said no one wanted crime in their home or area.
“There is a lot of fear in our community right now, people are worried about their safety,” she said.
“I have met and spoken to people affected by crime and the most important thing is to understand that you are not alone.
“Ninety percent of all crimes in our region are solved, the perpetrators are tracked down and brought to justice.
“The courts sentence young offenders to jail, there are currently hundreds of them across the state. Unfortunately, young people can learn new tricks while incarcerated.
“When determining sentences, the court takes public safety into account.
“Our biggest challenge is to prevent these people from reoffending.
“We currently have youth rehabilitation programs such as Transition to Success and Project Bouyah which is an early intervention program.
“So far, over 100 young people have participated in the program with a success rate of over 80%.
“We need these young people to re-engage in school, work or training that changes the way they live their lives.”
Resident Peter Hutton said he knew his neighbors well enough to give a wave until people in his own area were hit by repeat crime.
“We recently formed a type of neighborhood watch group where we all met, exchanged names and contact details so we could talk to each other and report anything suspicious or unusual in our area.
“It has made a difference, a simple call to a neighbor can help you when you are unsure of suspicious behavior.”
Tongue in cheek, Mr. Hutton said that if you really don’t want your car stolen, get rid of the car and buy a manual, because these young people can’t drive a manual.
Mark Cutajar of the Caves said one of his concerns is police response time when an incident is reported.
“These juvenile offenders can make three or four more burglaries while we wait for the police to arrive,” Cutajar said.
“We talked a lot about doing something ourselves.
“I know of an older man who had his wallet stolen from next to his bed while he slept.
“He and his wife are now terrified in their own home.
“Response times need to be improved and we need to find a way to make people feel safe at home again.
“At Les Caves, we will be forming a neighborhood watch group in the near future.”
Livingstone resident Marilyn Valder thinks the Capricorn Coast needs police stations and round-the-clock patrols.
“I spoke to a young offender (under 18) recently, he laughed at being caught,” she said.
“He knew he had a few more years to go before he could be held accountable for his actions, it’s a joke.
“Maybe it’s time to lock these youngsters up at night, use tracking devices.”
Gary Toon wanted to know his legal rights if he catches an offender in his home or on his property.
Police Inspector Burgess said people have a legal right to defend your home and protect you and your family, but advised people to be very careful.
“These people rarely act alone. It would be terrible if you ran down the street to catch someone offended and leave your family at home unprotected,” Inspector Burgess said.
“We have seen situations where people have taken charge, like the one in Townsville recently where a well-intentioned act went horribly wrong and became a tragedy.
“Your first priority should always be your safety and that of your family.
“Breathe and think about what you are doing and contact the police.”
Following the community meeting held in Yeppoon, The Caves community will host a community forum on rising crime in The Caves at 7 p.m. on Friday, July 29.