Early intervention at Childrens Court

Sam Reuben and Zac Murphy — two of the seven members of the Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group

As part of its efforts to break the cycle of youth crime in Townsville, the multi-agency Stronger Communities Action Group has introduced a new service at the local Childrens Court.

The group — created last year under the Queensland Government’s five-point plan to reduce youth crime — will offer early intervention to children who have had little or no previous contact with the criminal justice system.

The group’s government coordinator, Police Inspector Glenn Doyle, said the group will approach 10 to 14-year-olds and their families who are attending the Townsville Childrens Court.

“Acting early is really the key — it’s a far better way to improve community safety than waiting for kids to completely go off the rails before any action is taken,” Inspector Doyle said.

“This service will be similar to our other work where we’ll look to connect children and their parents or carers to professional support services to help deal with issues such as family dysfunction, poor school attendance, drugs and alcohol, and mental health.

“It’s these types of matters that are usually at the root of the offending.”

Research shows if a child under the age of 14 has had two contacts with the criminal justice system, such as a police caution or a conviction, they are at high risk of committing further crime.

The risk is even higher if the child is not in school, or if they’ve been suspended or expelled.

“This confirms that tackling youth crime isn’t simply about arresting offenders — schooling in particular plays a critical role,” said Inspector Doyle.

“It’s clear that if we want to stop seeing the same faces again and again through the Childrens Court, then we need to cast our efforts wider.”

The Stronger Communities Action Group is made up of senior representatives from seven agencies: Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health and the departments of Justice, Communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Education and Training, and Housing.

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