Youth Crime: A Deputy Commissioner's Perspective
By Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp
The deplorable behaviour of young inmates at Parkville youth justice centre and a dramatic arrest atop the West Gate Bridge this week has made for some troubling headlines.
Without doubt, there is a hard core cohort of young offenders who are engaging in very serious, repeat offending.
They are responsible for some alarming crimes that have emerged recently including home invasions, armed robberies, carjackings. Terrifying experiences for the victims.
They are challenging a justice system which rightly views young people as different to adult offenders - and as such tries to make positive interventions and provide them with every opportunity to turn their lives around so that they do not continue offending into the future.
But increasingly there are calls for tougher treatment of these young people, and in some of the more extreme cases, it is easy to see why.
For Victoria Police, protecting the community from criminals with disregard for the common values of decency remains our greatest priority – regardless of the age of offenders.
Our local police are working hard, undertaking intelligence-led patrols and cracking down on people wanted on warrants, ensuring offenders are complying with their strict bail conditions, and managing persons of interest.
To illustrate, in 2014/15, we arrested 158 young people for aggravated burglaries. In 2015/16, as the offending has increased, so have our arrests - to 464. A three-fold increase.
All that said, it is important we retain perspective. It might surprise some to know, but the number of young offenders in this state is actually decreasing. What we are seeing is a rise in a smaller number of repeat youth offenders committing more serious and violent crimes.
Amidst all this, we need to keep a real eye on the future. Whilst no-nonsense policing and tougher sentencing might provide a greater sense of short term justice for the community, it does not address the broader, underpinning issues which are driving this increase in offending.
It is critical we understand that better, so that we can break the cycle of lifetime offending and imprisonment. Every criminal that is rehabilitated is one less person committing robberies, assaults and burglaries on innocent people. This is how we will make our community safe into the future.
That’s a process we are committed to. So whilst police will help continue to take action against all offenders - young and old - we will also continue to work with our critical partners in Government and the community.