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

A night with police: How a 13yo broke into a bottle shop

In the early hours of a Saturday morning you would expect a young girl to be tucked up in bed, not sitting shoeless in a hospital emergency room under police guard.

But perhaps nothing surprises the Townsville community anymore, one which has endured several years of a losing battle against youth crime.

The girl was found by police with a bottle of Bundaberg Rum stashed under her jumper. Hours earlier, a bottle shop north of the city was allegedly broken into by a group of children who took off with four bottles of the spirit.

"I much prefer sitting here than in a cell, so lets drag it out," the girl, just 13, said to police.

She and senior constables Clifford Swift and Natalie Jaques-Sinclair from Townsville's Rapid Action Patrol Unit, had just walked into triage at the Townsville Hospital, where sick patients waited and paramedics and medical staff roamed.

The girl walked through the building without shoes, her pink slides were instead on her hands.

She was covered in paint and smelt of deodorant. The odour was suffocating and was enough to put you off Rexona for life.

It's just past midnight on Saturday morning. The girl had just been rejected by the Townsville watch-house after making admissions to chroming.

Chroming - the inhaling of fumes - has emerged as an ongoing battle for authorities across the state.

Two teenagers died in Townsville from the effects of chroming two years ago, a memorial is erected in the park where one died, but still troubled kids still consume it for a quick high despite the well-documented dangers.

SNR CON Clifford Swift and SNR CON Natalie Jaques-Sinclair. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
SNR CON Clifford Swift and SNR CON Natalie Jaques-Sinclair. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Several hours earlier officers responded to reports of alcohol being stolen at a Deeragun bottle-shop.

Police had received information that a group of youths smashed through the bottle-shop door and ran off with four bottles of rum.

The shop attendant reportedly locked the doors after the group was seen causing trouble outside.

Video, believed to be taken before the incident, allegedly captured a young girl known to police.

Police also received information that bottles of coke were also reportedly stolen from the nearby Coles Shopping Centre.

Officers waited in front of the smashed bottle-shop door, while another crew from the Rapid Action Patrol unit patrolled nearby streets, shining lights into the front yards of houses and driving slowly past parkland.

A 13yo girl was placed under arrest in regards to an alleged bottle shop robbery. SNR CON Natalie Jaques-Sinclair confiscates a Bundaburg Rum bottle. 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 bottle shop robbery. SNR CON Natalie Jaques-Sinclair confiscates a Bundaburg Rum bottle. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

There was no sign of any children so the crew returned closer to the city.

In what was simply good luck, or smart policing, Sen-Constable Swift spotted the young girl allegedly from the video, walking with a friend with a bottle of coke in hand outside of Stockland Shopping Centre at Aitkenvale.

Police pulled up beside the pair, wound down the window.

"What are you doing out tonight," Sen-Constable Swift asked.

The girl, 13, allegedly pulled a bottle of rum from under her jumper. She was covered in pink paint her back was the word Stop! She smiled and laughed as officers photographed her. Earlier, Northern Beaches High School had reportedly been vandalised with spray paint. Police confirmed several fire extinguishers were set off, and windows smashed.

Markers were also found on the girls, which had been used to write all over their bodies.

Sen-Constable Swift spoke to the girls as if he knew them. Later he said he saw names written on the girls' legs that he had recognised and that's how the conversation started.

The officers placed the girls under arrest, putting them both in paddy-wagons.

"I wasn't even at the shop you dumb f**king dog," the girl, 13, yelled.

She was taken to the watchouse, while her friend, who was not well known to police, was taken home by a second RAP crew.

A man detained after a call of alleged vandalism. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
A man detained after a call of alleged vandalism. Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Officers said it would take about 30 to 40 minutes to process the young girl into the watch-house. Instead, they were out within 15 as she made admissions to chroming.

They were required to take the girl to Townsville Hospital to have her looked over by a doctor.

"We just have to get a medical clearance … since she's been chroming," Sen-Constable Swift said on the way to the hospital.

He said within their duties it would happen often.

"Chroming's an issue," he says, although noted it was a statewide problem.

The girl swore as she walked into the hospital and flung herself onto the ground, throwing her pink slides that she wore on her hands.

She bickered with the officers, who appeared frustrated in what was increasingly becoming an evening of babysitting rather than policing.

The girl spat the gum she was chewing across the ground.

"Pick it up," one officer said, while trying to usher her from the seat.

The girl stood up and it looked like she was going to listen but instead she kicked it further.

Even more frustrated, the officer picked the chewed gum up with a glove. "Disgusting," she said.

The girl told police she didn't want testing. "It hasn't killed me yet," she said of chroming.

She bragged about how she stole a car from North Shore and just kept driving north to Cairns last week.

"If I steal a car, I'm going to make sure I go somewhere..," she said to police. She seemed awfully talkative for someone under arrest.

She laughed as she told the story, while Sen-Constable Swift repeatedly said it wasn't funny.

"How else am I going to get the stuff I want," the girl said, while also mocking the Lock It or Lose It police campaign slogan established to discourage property crime.

She seemed unapologetic when Sen-Constable Swift told her of the community concern about youth crime, which last month endured 11 break-ins and nearly three cars stolen a day.

The girl even began talking about the perks of Cleveland Youth Detention Centre.

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

After more than an hour of waiting, hours that could have been spent on the road, patrolling problem areas and helping reduce crime, the doctor emerged to ask the girl some questions.

He asked whether it was her first time chroming. She told him no.

Soon after the doctor gave her the all clear, and she was ushered back into the paddy wagon. She wasn't going back to the watch house but to her care home.

While she was waiting investigators called to say they would deal with her the following day.

Police confirmed the girl had since been charged with break and enter, enter with intent and receiving tainted property over last Friday's incidents.

 

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Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Overnight ride along with the Rapid Action Patrol Unit in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

The overwhelming smell of deodorant seeped from the paddy wagon through to the police van.

After a short drive, officers called the girl's carer who appeared at wits end as she approached the gate of the care-home property. The girl disappeared inside, with nothing to stop her from doing the same the following night.

Sen-Constable Swift agreed they often came across the same children when patrolling.

"I can't give you an accurate answer about how many times we see them a night. Maybe you won't see them for a couple of weeks. When Stockland (Shopping Centre) went off a few weeks ago, you'll see them every second night, (and will be) talking to them."

FRONTLINE COPS

They are the frontline police responding to crime as it happens.

The Rapid Action Patrol Units spend day and night watching the streets of Townsville, tracking wanted offenders, and keeping a lid on youth crime.

Last weekend, the Townsville Bulletin was given a behind-the-scenes look at how crews spend their shifts and witnessed the foot chases, the arrests and patrols.

On Saturday evening, the shift began about 9pm and got off to a busy start.

Police received information about a group of youths causing problems in Riverway, just across the road from the RAP base.

Officers spotted a group of youths as they drove into Riverway.

One boy sprinted towards the road, others towards the river.

The officers patrolled nearby, shining lights into scrub along the river, but were unable to find them.

Shortly after, another RAP crew patrolling spotted a wanted man on a bike.

Officers pursued the man through the Dan Gleeson Gardens before police, including the Tactical Crime Squad, apprehended him near the Thuringowa Library.

"He's been on the wanted list for a very long time - months. That was really good tonight," Senior Constable Natalie Jaques-Sinclair said.

She said on Saturday night there was a large group of youths hanging around Thuringowa causing trouble.

Later in the evening, the crew responded to a break and enter at the Coles at Willows Shopping Centre.

Officers patrolled nearby streets and across the footbridge to Douglas but the offenders were not found.



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