Above: Acting Assistant Commissioner Danny Bacon addresses council, Commander Michael White seated.
By KIERAN FINNANE
Popular opinion has it that most crime committed in Alice is by young people and most of them come from out of town.
Not so, said Acting Assistant Commissioner Danny Bacon in what was his last address to the Town Council in this role, as he is moving to Darwin to head up the police Professional Standards command.
He didn’t deny the problem of youth crime and anti-social behaviour “but we do have a large percentage of adult crime”, he said.
And: “Our statistics are indicating that most of the crimes we have are by Alice Springs residents.”
But it is hard to shift popular opinion, even when the Acting Assistant Commissioner is telling you that it’s not right.
When he took questions, Councillor Glen Auricht spoke of the children who run amok in town often being from remote communities and connected this to a “lack of police” on the communities: the children “don’t appear to be managed or tracked very well, they’re left in Alice Springs for weeks after events. Can that be handled a little bit better?”
This confronted the Acting Assistant Commissioner with two misperceptions to combat:
“There’s no lack of police in remote communities,” he said. “We have some vacancies which we choose to fill because of the workload there, and other vacancies we don’t fill because there’s no workload there.”
The vacancies that are “challenging” to fill are being covered by “short-term relief”.
(See what Namatjira MLA Chansey Paech has to say about this at bottom.)
As for young people involved with antisocial behaviour or acts of criminality “as I’ve indicated, a lot of the youth are local residents and not youth from remote communities.”
He agreed with Cr Jacinta Price that at the time of peak community concern, in the wake of the car-trashing at Peter Kittle Motors when the positive loiterers and others took to the streets in response, that there were “a lot of visiting youth from remote communities then”.
He said that there was “some unrest in those communities at that time”, but, again, “what we’re seeing now and what we have been seeing in the last three months is local youths.”
When young people from remote communities do get into trouble he said police engage with that particular community, “those elders” and the youths get referred to Territory Families’ new Youth Outreach and Re-Engagement Team (YORET) and/or other agencies.
Deputy Mayor Jamie de Brenni was keen to know what services were on the streets after hours, interacting with young people. It seemed to him that there was ‘“nothing really from 5pm, out in the streets, to get to youths before you [the police] do, finding out what their needs are.”
Acting Assistant Commissioner Bacon was reassuring: there are frontline officers, the Congress/Town Council “youth patrol”, other non-government agencies, and all them refer back to YORET when necessary.
Council prefers to call the service it runs with Congress the “After Hours Youth Service” rather than youth patrol. It provides bus transport that takes young people home, with engagement workers on board. The numbers using it have been concerning Mayor Damien Ryan.
The high in July of 2400 had been explained by a lot of remote visitors, Mayor Ryan said, but there were around 1690 in August, 1696 September.
He said he was “a bit surprised, with the case management going on, that the numbers are the same, month on month”, suggesting that the numbers would have included “a lot of repeat business”.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Bacon said the repeat users are referred to appropriate agencies for follow-up but he reminded councillors that “not all youth who engage with that service are committing any anti-social behaviour or criminality”.
It is after all “a conveyance service” and young people are using it as such, so the numbers remain high.
Although no councillors raised it, Acting Assistant Commissioner Bacon also spoke about the police at bottleshop strategies, known as POSIs and TBLs. When comprehensively applied, with police at every takeaway outlet, they have been credited with a significant downturn in assaults. However, most locals would have observed noticeably fewer police at outlets since the rollout of the reinstated BDR, requiring all purchasers of alcohol to produce ID.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Bacon said police get queries “every day” about POSIs and TBLs and he wanted council to know “we are maintaining that strategy and we will be transitioning to more of a TBL strategy after the summer period”. TBL means “temporary beat location”.
The Alice Springs News Online put the Acting Assistant Commissioner’s comments on police staffing in remote communities to bush MLAs Scott McConnell (Stuart) and Chansey Paech (Namatjira).
Mr Paech replied as followed:
“I don’t share the same view as Mr Bacon and neither do a number of my constituents. We believe that every Territorian deserves to have adequate services like police on remote communities to ensure community safety.
“I understand the Northern Territory Police Force is currently developing a new remote policing strategy to improve service delivery in the bush. Our police are doing great work and a new model will help them be even better at servicing the bush.
“We would not expect our urban centres to go without police so why should it be different for the bush?
“I’ll continue to advocate and lobby for the people of Namatjira and the regions and for the services that they need and require.”
The News asked Mr Paech which communities in his electorate do not have police stationed there at present. He replied Imanpa, Finke, and Docker River.
Mr McConnell had not replied at the time of publishing.
Meanwhile, David Proctor will take over from Acting Assistant Commissioner Bacon from 25 October, moving to Alice Springs, and Michael White has been promoted to the commander position for Southern Command.
On youth prisons; grandmothers, reformers, revolutionaries