An Indigenous Labor leader, fed up with the youth crime crisis affecting Alice Springs, has revealed three ways to clean up the Outback town.
Senator Marion Scrymgour, federal member for Lingiari which incorporates the central Australian city, said the community and young people are being failed by a system that slaps them on the wrist and sends them back to dysfunctional homes.
In January, the mother-of-three was robbed in her own home while she was sleeping, the robbery being just one of a spate of crimes committed by young people.
A public bus was robbed, an elderly woman was pelted with a rock, and countless cars were stolen over the summer.
Senator Scrymgour outlined three ways immediate change can come about in the city and urged authorities to stop treating delinquent children as “little angels.”
Among its changes are holding parents responsible for their children’s behaviour, undertaking an urgent review of the Youth Justice Act and establishing more Indigenous-led outreach programmes.
Labor senator Marion Scrymgour said authorities must stop hanging around and crack down on youth crime.
Car thefts resulting in accidents are common on the streets of Alice Springs.
Locals say young people wandering the streets and taking bike rides is a constant problem.
“There needs to be a rethink of how we approach (juvenile crime)… a little tough love never hurt anyone and I think that’s what needs to go into this equation,” Senator Scrymgour said. The Australian.
“We have to stop beating around the bush here and thinking that these children are being taken home with a responsible adult because in many of these cases there is no responsible adult there and the reality is that these children are not listening.”
Since 2019, rates of assaults, property crimes and domestic violence incidents in the NT have risen sharply, according to official figures.
Businesses have been forced to board up windows to prevent theft, install bollards to deter attacks and the local Coles supermarket is completely closed at night with automatic metal shutters.
Bakery owner Darren Clark, who founded the Facebook group Action for Alice, said the problem is the worst he has seen in 25 years.
They have entered the bakery with a car. We now have large bollards in front. Many businesses in the city now have bollards so they can’t ram,” he said in 2023.
‘In one week, my business was broken into three times, and on the fourth night, my house was broken into and two cars stolen. Then they went back into the store.
Cars are a common target for youth criminals running amok in Alice Springs
The Coles in Alice Springs after closure is fortified with metal shutters after thefts
Children as young as 10 have reportedly been involved in rides in stolen cars in recent incidents, prompting Senator Scrymgour to express concern: if the problem is left unchecked, it is a matter of time before one of them turns up. seriously injured.
Under changes to Northern Territory law in 2022, the age of criminal responsibility was raised from 10 to 12, with then-Chief Minister Natasha Fyles saying that “children of primary school age… “They are not hardened criminals who should be locked up.”
“They are being sentenced to greater behavioral problems and potentially, and very likely, the evidence shows us, a life of criminal activity,” he said.
Senator Scrymgour said that while she did not necessarily disagree with the change, it was clear that it had not made any improvement.
He said a wider review of the effectiveness of the Youth Justice Act, which is being considered by the Labor Party, should be a priority to be undertaken within this year.
“I haven’t stopped or been woken up, I just think we have to hurry up and stop thinking that all these measures are working, because they aren’t.”
Anthony Albanese flew to Alice Springs in January last year in response to residents’ concerns about alcohol-fueled violence, robberies and children wandering the streets dominating the headlines ahead of the Voice to Parliament vote.
But former Alice Springs deputy mayor Jacinta Nampijinpa Price in December last year accused the prime minister of failing to act on Indigenous issues since the referendum was rejected.
New NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler announced her own government’s review of youth justice laws earlier this month.
At the opening of the new $32 million high-tech youth detention center in Alice Springs last Monday, Ms Lawler said the problem of youth crime was a government failure.
The focus of the new center would be partly to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions but also, just as importantly, to put them on a better path, he said.
“I know the community expects there to be strong consequences for young people who do the wrong thing in the Territory and this is an important part of that puzzle,” he said.
NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler said a new detention center would focus on the rehabilitation of young detainees.
‘But part of that puzzle is also making sure that the young people who do wrong, who find themselves (here), are also on the path to a better life.
‘This is about ensuring that the young people who are here get the education, the training, the pathways to employment, the pathways to work in the NT.
‘So if you’re a young man who finds himself (here), we need to make sure it’s an opportunity to change your life and become a successful citizen, a healthy citizen, a great young man in the New Testament.’