Mobile phones the link-up for rampant youth group crime
By HELEN JACK firstname.lastname@example.org
THE growing use of SMS messaging is being blamed for an alcohol-fuelled ‘spike’ in crime by youths.
The messages are attracting youths in packs of up to 100 to gatecrash parties. The result is sexual assaults, assaults and anti-social behaviour by people as young as 10.
The alcohol is sometimes supplied by parents who haven’t a clue where their children are, police say.
The growing problem is reflected in alarming police crime figures for the Richmond and Tweed-Byron local area commands. These show the number of youths arrested for alcohol-related crimes has jumped from 69 to 154 over the past six years.
The increase has been particularly sharp since 2006. The partygoers often number close to 100, bringing with them alcohol at locations either near the sea or in major towns.
Figures provided by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research indicate 154 juveniles, aged between 10 and 17 years of age, were arrested for alcohol-related non-domestic assaults in the Richmond and Tweed districts in 2007, compared to 69 in 2001.
Juveniles arrested for alcohol related malicious damage also increased from 43 in 2001 to 102 in 2007.
The areas most affected were Byron Bay and Ballina, with the youths favouring beachfront parks and gatecrashing private parties.
Lismore also experienced an increase in juvenile crimes with 32 arrested in 2007 for alcohol-related non-domestic violence assaults, up from 13 arrests in 2001.
Richmond Local Area Command Superintendent Bruce Lyons said a reversal of the trend would require a coordinated approach from police, the community and parents.
“If we continue to have large numbers of youths coming together without adequate supervision these crime trends will continue to rise,” he said.
“Whilst we have various proactive strategies with councils and liquor accords, the trend for young people coming together via SMS messages over mobile phones has emerged as a critical problem for policing.”
Supt Lyons said he was not surprised at the young ages of the offenders.
“Unfortunately that occurs, but I do find it disturbing that parents allow 10-year-olds to wander the streets,” he said.
Beating the problem has now become a focus for police, councils, local licensees and community groups.
Ballina Shire Council open spaces and reserves manager Jillian Pratten said council supported the local Liquor Accord and police by implementing alcohol-free zones.
“At the request of police the community council has implemented alcohol-free zones in the CBD area with alcohol prohibition in parks from 10pm to 7am,” she said.