The Queensland government has committed $25 million to a new high-visibility police operation targeting the state’s youth crime hotspots.
- Police officers will be paid overtime to work high-visibility shifts to curb anti-social behaviour
- The $25 million announcement coincides with public hearings into youth crime laws in Townsville
- North Queenslanders say the legal changes don’t go far enough to curb crime and violence
Operation Victor Unison will involve extra patrols in busy pedestrian areas, like shopping centres, to reduce and deter crime.
“Where we see restaurants, retail shops, cafes, licensed venues, you can expect to see a higher presence of police,” Queensland Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Wheeler said.
The two-year funding package will be used to pay officers overtime to work dedicated shifts.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said the concept was successfully trialled between December and February, resulting in the arrests of more than 2,800 people on 6,500 charges.
Officers ‘opt in’ to overtime
“It was so successful that now the government is making that style of operation permanent with a $25 million funding increase,” Mr Ryan said.
“Those extra patrols are dedicated exclusively for these extreme high-visibility police patrols, so it doesn’t take away from the business-as-usual of police, [it] doesn’t divert police resources from the other key work that they might be doing around domestic violence or other community safety initiatives.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner Wheeler said the operation would rely on officers ‘opting in’ to work on their days off.
“The feedback we have so far from our officers on the front line doing it [is they] actually really liked doing this kind of work,” he said.
“It gives them, if you like, a little bit of respite from that really high-intensity, going job-to-job, first-response style of work that they do.”
New measures ‘not tough enough’
The campaign, announced in Townsville on Thursday, coincided with a public hearing into the state government’s proposed overhaul of youth justice laws.
North Queensland leaders say Labor’s Strengthening Community Safety Bill won’t be tough enough to reduce surging levels of crime and violence.
The changes bypass the state’s human rights protections by making breach of bail an offence for children, and have been touted by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as the “most comprehensive response to youth crime in the state”.
Despite that, leaders and residents in the north said they could go further.
“Returning breach of bail as an offence is important because that’s where we constantly see the police are hamstrung — they can’t act,” Townsville resident Sandra Elton said.
She said her 11-year-old son was at soccer training when he was charged at by young people who had driven a stolen car onto the oval.
“They were actually doing donuts and screaming at the kids going, ‘We are going to kill you’,” she said.
We’ve got to try something: Mayor
Townsville City Mayor Jenny Hill said the laws were a “good start” but had critical gaps.
“We need to ensure that we see mandatory sentencing for some of the more grievous crimes that some of these kids are starting to commit,” she said.
“Detention shouldn’t be last resort. If there is a child with a consistent history, put them behind bars, get the support in there then for that child.”
She also expressed support for relocation sentencing for repeat offenders, a solution proposed by Katter’s Australia Party.
“We’ve got to try something because what we’re doing at the moment isn’t working.”
Mount Isa ‘ignored’, member says
In the north-west electorate of Traeger, member Robbie Katter said he was dismayed Mount Isa residents were not given a public hearing like Cairns and Townsville.
“We’re very much at the coal face of this issue,” Mr Katter said.
“To be ignored is a bit of a punch in the guts and I think reflects poorly on the process.”
Extra police were deployed to Mount Isa in January after the city recorded its worst year for stolen cars in 2022.
“We are, under many of the metrics, the worst affected in the state,” the Katter’s Australian Party leader said.