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HomeVolume 29Youth crime: Continuing the status quo isn’t an option.

Youth crime: Continuing the status quo isn’t an option.

Marion Scrymgour, MP Member for Lingiari, bush campaigning in December 2022.

Letter to the Editor

Alice Springs residents are all guests of the holders of its native title, confirmed by the Federal Court on May 23, 2000.

That applies not just to non-Aboriginal people but also to Aboriginal people whose country is somewhere else, and who are either visiting or who have made their lives in Alice for the long term.

Distinct and separate communities of Aboriginal people reside within their own town camp areas, under their own arrangements.

That is something quite separate from land rights but it reflects an accommodation which was reached long ago amongst Aboriginal people themselves.

The organisation which is tasked with facilitating services and harmony within the town camps is Tangentyere Council.

Last Wednesday Chief Minister Eva Lawler put in place a youth curfew in and around the CBD in Alice Springs.

This action took into account violent rioting and damage to property in the town area and then in one of the town camps on Tuesday.

There was a legitimate concern that further unrest would spill back into CBD area, and in any event criminal behaviour within the CBD at night has been a long term issue of concern.

It was deeply saddening that the rioting on Tuesday took place after one of the most solemn and dignified memorial processions Alice Springs has even seen.

Carrying small branches with leaves, a large group of predominantly but not exclusively women made its way to the location within the CBD of a vehicle rollover on the night of March 8 in which an 18 year old person was killed. The vehicle, which is alleged to have been stolen, is alleged to have been driven dangerously in the moments leading up to the accident. Healing will take a long time.

Also on Wednesday, the Central Land Council Executive issued a release.

Police have confirmed that things have been quiet in the CBD, our young people having realised that conditions have changed.

It was very disappointing to hear comments that because there was some serious offending in the suburbs on Thursday night, this meant that the curfew wasn’t working and that the problem had just been moved to a different location. 

The offending on Thursday night took place at two separate locations outside the curfew zone. Offenders broke into business premises in Ciccone and allegedly stole property, including weapons.

And there was yet another suburban home invasion where vulnerable victims were allegedly threatened at knifepoint to hand over keys to vehicles, with two vehicles then being allegedly stolen.

Vehicle thefts in the suburbs have been taking place repeatedly, going back long before the curfew was put in place, but usually following the same pattern, which is that after the vehicles are stolen they are at some point taken into the CBD at night and driven in hoon fashion there, often in the presence of other youths.

This was what happened on the night of October 15, 2020, when after being driven through a red light and hitting and killing an Alice Springs citizen riding his motorbike, the stolen car was then driven dangerously in and around the CBD for hours, even down the Todd Mall itself.

To suggest that the current curfew is moving offending away from the CBD to the suburbs is completely misconceived.

No-one has said or expected that a CBD curfew will curtail the spate of suburban home invasions, but it may at least make it less likely that stolen vehicles will be driven into the CBD.

The other comment which has been made is that some young people are out on the streets because they don’t have a safe home environment.

That is a problem which needs to be addressed by all relevant stakeholders, including Territory Families, and all levels of government will need to be working together with those stakeholders to make kids safe, including crisis safe spaces, longer term boarding accommodation, family responsibility agreements, and enhanced local youth programs.

But in what world does it make sense to say that because there are problems for a young person at home their safety should be secured by green-lighting their presence in the CBD in the early hours of the morning?

The Alice Springs curfew may be just a small step in a long journey, but it is a welcome acknowledgement by the Chief Minister that continuing the status quo isn’t an option.

Marion Scrymgour, MP Member for Lingiari.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Question : Was the 18 year old who died recently, part of the mob in the stolen vehicle or was he an “innocent” pedestrian?

  2. Much publicity is given to crime but almost none to solving it and making arrests.
    Strike Force Viper is making a real difference here by arresting serious offenders and getting them off the streets quickly.
    From my observation, members of the Strike Force are a different breed of cops to the regulars you see around town.
    Investing in quality police who are smarter and fitter than the street-smart young crims, rather than a surge of plods, might be the way to go.

  3. Waiting for an answer to my question posted on 3rd. April at 3.13pm. Was the 18 year old …?
    ED – You might have to wait for the coronial investigation.

  4. Most of all, what is needed are very clever and inventive youth workers allowed to create an environment that supports resolution of this ridiculous situation.
    Keep those pubs closed.
    Bring in 250 youth workers.
    Assign as few youths to a team of two youth workers.
    Talk, talk to the kids. Hear what they need.
    Calm them with realistic answers and keep your promises to them. Never let them down. Talk to them. Listen to them.

  5. @ John: Yes, swamping the town with 250 youth workers is a waste of money but street smart youth workers sharing an activity such as skateboarding can make a real difference.
    So where are the shared activities that accommodate this?

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