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11 February, 2021

Communities rally against crime

EMOTIONS ran high at Friday’s Rally against Crime in Mareeba as victims of youth crime and parents of offenders both pleaded for a solution to the situation which they say is ‘out of control”.

By Nicole Gibson

The rally was in response to increasing juvenile crime levels and sparked by last month’s violent crime spree which saw two youths commit multiple robberies across Far North Queensland, starting in Atherton and finishing in Cairns.

The rally organised by the Crime and Justice Action Group (CJAG) gave Tablelands residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and discussed solutions.

“What we are trying to do is solve a serious structural problem in our system,” said CJAG spokesperson Aaron McLeod.

Around 100 people attended the event which saw victims of crime, business owners, relatives of troubled youths and politicians, past and present, share their thoughts.

Solutions centred around a common thread which included relocation sentencing, making parents accountable and more support for troubled children.

Mareeba grandmother Joanne Boyd is raising her two grandchildren after her daughter died 18 months ago.

After his mother’s death, her grandson went through a short period of acting out so she has first-hand experience with the services available for troubled kids.

She said many children experience dysfunctional home lives that included domestic violence as well as drug and alcohol abuse and stronger intervention was needed before they reached the justice system.

“The only time (the children) get intensive support is when they enter the justice system and that’s not the time,” she said.

“They needed that help before they got there.”

Atherton resident Dorcas Watson was one of the first victims of a crime spree on the January 18 where a youth attempted to break into her home with a knife and screwdriver before targeting four other homes, eventually stealing a car.

She said while she was not robbed, the perpetrators had stolen her peace of mind and she experiences anxiety attacks worrying whether she has secured her property properly.

“I pretty much don’t sleep at night anymore, neither does the lady next door,” Ms Watson said.

“I jump every time I go out and I have to make sure everything is locked – I can be halfway out somewhere and I have to come back and make sure it’s (her home) locked.”

Instead of advocating for tougher punishments, Ms Watson also believes the solution lies with helping troubled children overcome their problems.

“I think Identify the needs of the children first because all children have different needs,” she said.

Bruno’s Taxis owners Bruno and Rick Dimaggio were also in attendance, calling for less talk and more action.

Bruno Dimaggio said he has experienced the mental, emotional and financial impacts of youth crime after his car was stolen and boat robbed by youths.

Mr Dimaggio was asleep when youths broke into his home, crept into his bedroom and stole his car keys from the table beside him.

“You’re sleeping when someone has come in and violated your personal space,” he said.

“It’s gut wrenching, it’s sickening – there’s no words to describe the feeling.”

Mr Dimaggio believes he knows what the kids need having been a delinquent youth himself. He wanted to see more discipline and respect and advocated relocation sentencing.

“My aunty and uncle had a farm and when I did something wrong (I was sent) to work and I went to work against my will and I didn’t do that (act out) twice, did I,” he said.

State Member for Hill Shane Knuth was also in support of relocation sentencing saying the cycle of crime needed to be broken.

“Give the magistrates the power to send them (youth offenders) to remote locations, put them to work, teach them values and skills with a number of different programs in place so that we can work on those problem, repeat offenders to break the crime cycle,” he said.

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