Ride along
Ride along

UNDER SIEGE: Horror extent of Townsville’s crime crisis

YOU are more likely to have your home or business broken into in Townsville then anywhere else in the state, with shocking stats revealing there are at least 60 break-ins every week across the city.

The number crunch of available Queensland Police data also revealed 17 cars are stolen, 31 people are being assaulted and more than 73 people are charged with a drug crime every week in Townsville.

The Bulletin compared Townsville's crime rates for the last year, with other major centres across the state, with the city topping the rates per 1,000 people in break-ins and drug crime, while ranking in the top three for stolen cars, assaults and robbery.

The data is based off of Queensland Police statistics and looks at population figures from the 2016 census, comparing it to other major centres including Logan, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Cairns.

Frighteningly 3200 homes and businesses were broken into since October last year, 910 cars stolen and 121 people robbed.

And this all in a year where crime saw a decent lull due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Townsville Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said he was frustrated by the numbers.

"I am frustrated that ourselves and our partners are holding these people to account, and they are not getting the message," he said.

"We do have a juvenile crime problem … and it's something we are attacking."

Supt Hanlon said they are targeting known offenders in known locations, and they are expecting things to ramp up as summer starts.

He said police had seen a 7 per cent decrease with the number of children committing offences, but, a core group of young criminals were wreaking havoc across the city.

While police were working hard to hold offenders to account, he said social issues in the community kept them on the wrong track.

Townsville Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Townsville Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

"While some people have negative life impacts, they still need to be held to account."

According to the Australian Institute of Health report into juvenile offenders, young people under youth justice supervision most commonly lived in low socio-economic areas, with many young people before the court often describing their upbringing in an unstable home, often filled with abuse and trauma.

Supt Hanlon said about 30 per cent of the unlawful entry offences were recorded as break-in attempts, an increase from 10 per cent in the last few years, and a sign that residents were listening to the desperate call from police to take their safety seriously.

Drug crime is also worse in Townsville than in any other compared region, with 3797 drug offences laid in the last year, or more than 20 offences in every 1000 people.

Supt Hanlon said this meant police were doing proactive work in busting the dealers and producers.

A 13yo girl was placed under arrest in regards to an alleged bottleshop robbery. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
A 13yo girl was placed under arrest in regards to an alleged bottleshop robbery. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Car theft is also a major issue for the region, with Townsville recording the second highest rate of unlawful use of a motor vehicle offences in the state, second to Logan, with about four people in every 1000 having their car stolen in the last year.

Earlier this year, the region was rocked by the deaths of four children who were killed in an alleged stolen car crash at Garbutt on June 7.

They were aged between 13 and 17 year old, and the alleged driver, who survived the crash, is 14 years old.

Four children were killed on June 7 after the car they were travelling in hit a pole on Duckworth St and Bayswater Rd. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Four children were killed on June 7 after the car they were travelling in hit a pole on Duckworth St and Bayswater Rd. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

In March, a teenager stole a mini-van from a Rasmussen childcare centre and drove it on a 350km rampage on the Bruce Highway, before it caught fire.

In August, three stolen cars were found dumped in a lake near Castle Town, and just last month a vigilante was bashed by a group of young criminals after they rammed him in three stolen cars.

Supt Hanlon said he wants to see the crime rates drop and wouldn't "shy away from a challenge."

He said police had new ideas in the works, and were "in the process" of reviewing what was working and what wasn't within the service.

"We need to bring that curve down … we can then have more investment back into crime preventing."

Supt Hanlon said crime prevention included working with the community about safety measures, and continuing successful property crime operations.

The rate of assaults was also high for Townsville, which recorded more than 1600 offences in the last 12 months, a rate of about eight assaults per 1000 people.

Supt Hanlon said these offences included assaults at correctional centres, including Cleveland Youth Detention Centre, which saw a 70 per cent increase in assaults in the last three years.

Assaults had also become more prevalent at the region's hospitals, with a 30 per cent increase in assaults on hospital grounds in the last five years.

Supt Hanlon said the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and its toll of mental health was a contributor to these rates.

The region's two Labor MPs, Scott Stewart and Aaron Harper, both agreed crime was unacceptable.

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper speaks at a press conference during a visit to a TAFE college in Townsville. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper speaks at a press conference during a visit to a TAFE college in Townsville. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

"Community safety is paramount and people deserve to feel safe," Townsville MP Scott Stewart said.

The Labor government has previously spruiked its five-point plan, which was announced in March, but both MPs, and Police Minister Mark Ryan, were quiet about whether these high rates were proof that it wasn't working.

They also did not respond to a question about whether their government's initial changes to the Youth Justice Act late last year, making it easier for kids to be released on bail, played a part in these high numbers.

The Act was amended back in June this year, 10 days after four children were killed in an alleged stolen car crash, allegedly driven by a 14 year old boy who was on bail at the time.

When asked about their plan to fix the rates in the next 12 months, they spoke of Labor's commitment to put 150 new police into the Northern Region, and its plans to build a new state-of-the-art $30 million police station at Kirwan.

Mr Ryan could not tell the Bulletin when these cops would start to roll out across the city.

Minister for Police Mark Ryan. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Minister for Police Mark Ryan. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"These measures are starting to work - but more needs to be done - and we will continue to attack these issues from all sides," Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper said.

Supt Hanlon did not wish to comment on what his police service needed from the government to thrive, saying they will work with whoever gets into government on October 31.

"We are a government department and regardless of the result, we will continue to maintain safety in our community."

Mundingburra candidate, Glenn Doyle, who is a Townsville police Inspector, said the rates didn't surprise him.

LNP candidate for Mundingburra Glenn Doyle. : NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall
LNP candidate for Mundingburra Glenn Doyle. : NCA NewsWire / Sarah Marshall

"As a police officer in Townsville for 20 years I've seen the number steadily increase and through my own research I know that we're really over represented with the amount of offences that occur here in Townsville," Mr Doyle said.

Mr Doyle said each individual statistic represented a victim.

"It's a person who has had their safety violated in one way or another, or had their property damaged or stolen. That has an impact on people, and that's a long lasting effect."

Mr Doyle said police needed the tools and legislation to help them bring down these rates, spruiking the LNP's bold new curfew policy and a dedicated police helicopter as the answer, which has come under heavy fire by Labor members and some in the Townsville community.

 

 

shayla.bulloch@news.com.au

Originally published as UNDER SIEGE: Horror extent of Townsville's crime crisis

Scott Stewart MP - Member for Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Scott Stewart MP - Member for Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney