March 27, 2019
South Burnett PCYC plans to begin opening late on Saturday nights in an effort to lower youth crime in the Murgon and Cherbourg areas.
The announcement was made at a public meeting held at Murgon Town Hall on Tuesday night.
PCYC manager, Acting Sergeant Rene Bond, said that if sufficient volunteers and business supporters could be enlisted, the PCYC would open from 9:00pm to 1:00am on Saturday nights.
Acting Sgt Bond said as well as offering local children things to do, the PCYC could also supply them with an evening meal and potentially be a “safe house” where they could spend time overnight if their family situation was unstable.
The plan would mirror a similar system trialled at Moree in northern NSW which has led to a reduction of youth offences in that town.
If the Saturday night trial produced similar results, the organisation would seek grant funding to extend the program to other nights.
Tuesday’s meeting was called by Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff and Pastor Max Conlon in an effort to seek solutions to recent incidents of youth crime in Murgon and Cherbourg.
Special guests included Cherbourg Mayor Arnold Murray; Inspector Graeme Paine, from the Dalby-Burnett Patrol Group; and the officer-in-charge of Murgon Police, Senior Sergeant Steve Stewart.
About 130 Cherbourg and Murgon residents attended.
Cr Duff, who introduced the speakers, thanked South Burnett CTC and the Murgon Men’s Shed for providing a free sausage sizzle.
She stressed the key aim of the evening was to find positive solutions to both towns’ problems.
Following a Welcome to Country by Mayor Murray and a blessing from Pastor Bruce Wilding, the meeting got underway with a slideshow presentation from Inspector Paine that provided an overview of police manpower, local crime levels and enforcement actions over the past six months.
Inspector Paine said Murgon currently had 23 officers assigned to a policing division that covered 3550 residents, and Cherbourg had seven officers to cover 1313 residents.
Compared with Kingaroy (19 officers for 13,107 residents) and Dalby (23 officers for 14,224 residents), police strength in Murgon and Cherbourg was almost four times higher than usual.
This was because rates of offences were between two to six times higher in Cherbourg and Murgon than in Kingaroy and Dalby.
Inspector Paine said an analysis of the past month showed that between 50 and 72 per cent of the four main classes of offences committed in both towns had been solved (ie unlawful entry, unlawful use of motor vehicles, property damage and domestic violence).
This was well above the State average of 15 to 45 per cent.
And in terms of enforcement, in the past year the levels of street checks, breath tests and traffic actions in the Murgon and Cherbourg areas had risen by between 90 and 900 per cent.
The meeting was then thrown open to questions from the floor.
These ranged from operational issues, such as policing hours and locations, to criticism of Child Safety laws which prevented parents and teachers being able to effectively discipline children, and the need for Indigenous Police Liaison Officers.
Several speakers were highly critical of rules that stopped police from taking children off the streets or enforcing town-wide curfews.
Criticism of alleged light sentences being handed out by the courts to repeat offenders drew strong applause.
Other speakers, however, noted some children were wandering the streets at night because their home life was a nightmare, and lamented the lack of a local “safe house” which could be used by young people in distress.
The destructive effects of ice (methamphetamine) in both towns was also discussed.
Looking at potential solutions, different speakers suggested more local youth employment, a youth centre and a greater focus on crime prevention strategies.
After the meeting, Cr Duff said she was very impressed with the roll-up from both Murgon and Cherbourg, and very pleased with the quality of the discussion.
“I think the crime statistics we saw at the meeting were a real eye-opener for many of us,” Cr Duff said.
“But I think the meeting also produced something positive we can get behind to try to tackle this issue, and also raised some important issues that need to be looked at by higher levels of government.”