Two heads proving better than one in youth crime fight
YOUTH case worker Jess Grinter used to go home on Friday afternoon worried about whether some of the kids whose cases she managed would make it through the weekend without getting arrested, hurt or worse.
But a bold new program teaming a group of Youth Justice workers with police is not only giving her some peace of mind, but some of Cairns' most troubled juveniles a lifeline.
The co-responder program, which was brought in by the state government to tackle spiralling youth crime in the Far North, has been running since May - initially just three days a week and now almost 24/7.
The two-person teams spend their shifts getting called to incidents, patrolling the streets and taking calls from kids who have no one else to turn to - even if it's just for a lift home.
"Kids don't have a great view of police sometimes so it's been really good to be working with police … and the kids are definitely … having better relationships with them," Ms Grinter said.
"You definitely see a lot of things at night that you would never usually see and there's been opportunities where it would usually be a QPS response, however, we're called to engage with the young person and look at what needs to happen.
"Sometimes we'll go to the watch house, we'll go and speak to parents or guardians to see if they can come in and be part of the process of them being charged."
Since July 1, when the program went full-time, the teams have had 1134 interactions with youths, paid 37 visits to the watch house and done 230 intensive bail reports.
Much of their recent focus has been on the Cairns CBD, although their patrols extend throughout the entire city.
Cairns Child Protection and Investigation Unit Detective Senior Sergeant Mick Gooiker said the key to the program was not only focusing on the kids already in the Youth Justice system, but preventing others from entering it.
"It's very much one piece of the puzzle that is how we're going to address juvenile crime across the board," he said.
"But it's a very important part because it gives us these referral pathways and gives people that are motivated to work in this area the time to try and engage with these kids and try to change their behaviours long term.
"When they're driving kids home, it's not about driving kids home, it's about diverting them (from situations) where they can potentially commit offences."
1134 youth engagements
348 alternate youth interactions
230 intensive bail reports
55 support referrals
37 watch house visits
23 missing person follow-ups
8 referrals for further supervision
Originally published as Two heads proving better than one in youth crime fight