By Kiri-Mei Shepherd
Reports of juvenile crime increasing on the coast are nothing more than political scare campaigns and media hype, according to youth service professionals.
Integrated Family and Youth Service CEO Paul Morton said looking at statistics, there has been no significant change to the number of young people on the coast committing crimes.
Mr Morton said politicians sell fear and use it as “an easy way to score points”.
“It is a perception still, that youth crime is on the increase,” he said.
“[It’s] a perceived increase in crime, because when you break the figures down, it is a very small amount.”
Caloundra CIB detective Senior Constable Andrew Bauer said kids are definitely committing crime but not noticeably more than usual.
“These people have always been here, I guess the media are just talking about it more,” he said.
Constable Bauer said the obvious trait of kids who commit crime was a lack of respect that began at home.
He said that while at times kids make mistakes and get led off track, generally the young people in the community were “great”.
“There’s still so many really good kids,” he said.
“You pull them up, driving by, and you think they were really nice, polite kids.”
Constable Bauer said keeping young people engaged in healthy, social activities was important.
Boredom was not an excuse when, “there’s a coastline full of activities that you can do,” he said.
“If kids are out surfing or skate boarding…they’re not out committing crime.”
Mr Morton agreed the first step in breaking the cycle of juvenile crime was education and getting kids involved in productive community life.
“I have no doubt that young people are much more disconnected from society than they have ever been,” he said.
“When all is said and done, reducing crime is about educating people.”
Mr Morton said Integrated Family and Youth Service provide safe and secure environments for young people on the Sunshine Coast, and focus on helping them fit in.
“We’ve got a couple of community centres we run, one in Beerwah which is a youth activity centre,” he said.
“In lots of ways that’s a crime prevention strategy about engaging young people in community and active community life.”
Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s Community Development Officer (Youth) Cindi Coinix works with young people and youth support services across the coast that focus on engaging kids in the community.
“Through Speak Up Engage, which is Council’s youth engagement program, we work with groups of young people…on areas that matter to them,” she said.
“So that could be anything from being artistic and having access to arts and cultural activities…they can go out and consult with their peers and then they bring that information back to help inform council around its policies and decision making.
“The youth engagement program is also about plugging those young people back into activities and support services across the Sunshine Coast.”
Ms Coinix said young people involved in these programs are helping make a difference in the community.