The rate of legal actions taken against children has spiked dramatically on the Coffs Coast, and police are now calling for assistance.
The rate of legal actions taken against children has spiked dramatically on the Coffs Coast, and police are now calling for assistance. mtreasure

Police call for help as crimes committed by children spike

THE rate of reported crime committed by youths has spiked dramatically within the past year on the Coffs Coast, according to police.

Between 2017 and 2018 there has been a 60 per cent rise in the number of legal actions being taken against young people in the Coffs Clarence Police District.

Police attributed this to a number of factors afflicting local youth including low school attendance, unemployment, domestic violence, mental illness, and issues with drugs and alcohol.

The Coffs Clarence region has one of the worst youth unemployment rates in Australia, sitting at 22.5 per cent.

The disturbing crime figures were revealed by Police Inspector Brendan Gorman to a crowd of concerned community members on Thursday afternoon, as part of the third public crime forum run by police and Coffs Harbour City Council.

"I don't want to demonise kids, kids are very important to us. But what we want to show is that there is an issue," Insp Gorman said.

"We (police) can't do it on our own. We need support from the community and council in regards to prevention of crime."

According to Insp Gorman, around 60 per cent of juvenile crime within the district takes place in Coffs Harbour.

He said there are a number of specific locations where children congregate and the crimes occur, including Harbour Dr, Park Ave, and Brelsford Park in Coffs Harbour, as well as the Sawtell CBD and Toormina Shopping Centre, adding the bulk of crimes take place during school hours.

Piping up from the crowd, a former high school teacher said he believed the courts were partly to "blame" for the issue.

"Some years ago now I was teaching at a school when a boy of 14 came in and shot two teachers and a student. You know what the court said? The court said go back to school and behave.

"It's a losing game. The exponential graphs tell us that."

Another community member, who said she lives in social housing, said she believed the issue boiled down to poor parenting.

"These children come from broken homes. Their parents are alcoholics and drug addicts who have no interest in their children, and they're roaming the street past midnight causing havoc. I'm not here to complain about these children, I want to know, apart from ringing the police which you don't want to do unless it's your last resort, what can we do as a community?"

Insp Gorman called on community groups to assist police in delivering programs and strategies to help combat the crime rates.

"We need to get the community involved in creating a conversation to help solve this problem.

"In a lot of circumstances in a lot of communities we're seen as the enemy. We're seen as the uniform. We can be part of the solution but we can't lead the solution on our own because people are resistant, because of that uniform."

The Stats:

-Legal actions taken against children in the Coffs Clarence has risen by around 60 per cent in the last year.

-The most common crimes include malicious damage, non-domestic assault and steal from retail store.

-The bulk of crime takes place during school hours, Mon-Fri.

-In 2017, 135 juvenile offenders were charged in Coffs Harbour and Sawtell, and 13 of the offenders counted eight or more charges each.