Co-responder teams getting young people back on track in Cairns

Published Tuesday, 16 March, 2021 at 11:00 AM

Minister for Children and Youth Justice and Minister for Multicultural Affairs
The Honourable Leanne Linard

Cairns co-responder teams of police and youth justice workers have engaged with more than 2300 young people while patrolling the streets since the program began in May last year.

Minister for Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs Leanne Linard said the Cairns’ teams were making great progress in tackling anti-social behaviour, checking that young people were complying with their bail conditions and supporting them to get health, housing and education services.

“Our 24/7 co-responder teams are doing wonderful work on the ground, helping to stop crime before it occurs, at the same time addressing anti-social behaviour and diverting young people to support services,” Ms Linard said.

“Together, police and youth justice workers have engaged with 2331 young people since May and are now in a unique position to truly understand why young people are offending and how they can help them to get back on track.”

Member for Barron River Craig Crawford said the teams had made a significant impact in the region.

“We know this because the number of young offenders in Cairns dropped by 13 per cent in the year to November 2020, compared to the previous year,” he said.

“We are now targeting the 10 per cent of prolific repeat offenders who actually commit 39 per cent of youth crime in Cairns.”

Member for Cairns Michael Healy welcomed the impact the program had in the region and the extraordinary number of young people it had reached.

“What’s great about this $5.2 million initiative, though, is that it’s not only Cairns that’s benefited but other areas, including Townsville, Brisbane, Rockhampton and Logan and I understand it will be expanded to even more areas this year,” he said.

“It’s also just one part of the Palaszczuk Government’s five-point plan announced last year to tackle hardcore repeat offenders, and follows a record investment of more than half a billion dollars in youth justice reform.”

Speaker of the Queensland Parliament and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the significant funding commitment was having an impact.

“They’ve helped young people affected by domestic violence, who have struggled with drug addiction issues and young people who are simply hungry or need a bed to sleep  - all issues that impact youth crime,” he said.

“Feedback from our frontline workers is that young people who are stopped in their tracks by our co-responders and who are directed to get the support they need are less likely to offend.”

Acting Chief Superintendent Chris Hodgman said the program has had a positive flow on effect to the local community.

“We continue to see numerous cases where simple engagement with young people is proving successful,” Acting Chief Superintendent Hodgman said.

“By providing focused support, we are able to foster strong relationships, facilitate referral pathways and ultimately divert young people away from crime.  

“We are now starting to see strong bonds forming between police, Youth Justice staff and young people who may have otherwise had a negative view of the roles we play in society.”

The co-responder program is part of the government’s suite of measures to tackle youth crime.

Last month the government introduced tough new laws into Parliament to target hardcore youth criminals who repeatedly offend and put the community at risk.

These include:

  • a trial of GPS Trackers as a condition of bail for recidivist high risk offenders aged 16 and 17,
  • a Presumption Against Bail for youth offenders arrested for committing further serious indictable offences like the unlawful use of a motor vehicle while on bail,
  • assurances from parents and guardians that bail conditions will be complied with before an offender is released by the court,
  • strengthened bail laws to provide further guidance to the courts,
  • an amendment to the Youth Justice Act to include a reference to the community being protected from recidivist youth offenders in the Charter of Youth Justice Principles, and
  • enshrining in legislation the principle that offending while on bail is an aggravating circumstance when the court is imposing a sentence.

Media Contact: Bernadette Condren 0417 296 116