Is Malcolm Turnbull right about Victoria’s youth crime issue?

Is Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull right about Victoria’s youth crime issue? Last week Victoria Police Superintendent Therese Fitzgerald, denied that Victoria had an African gang crime problem but today a press conference was held with a totally different understanding. The Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton actually said the opposite, “These young thugs, young criminals… are acting like street gangs.”

With the police lacking consistency with their messages, how is anything going to be done? Minister for Police, Lisa Neville, appeared to get a little flustered when asked questions about the pressure to fix this problem but said, “It’s unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.” When she was asked ‘How important is getting these gangs under control to the government’s chances at the next election?” she replied with, “My focus has always just been on improving community safety, reducing crime and harm in our community. It’s not about the election and the next election…”

One year reoffending rates for matched cautioned and charged young people, by selected offence subdivisions  GRAPHIC: Crime Statistics Agency, 2017

The Acting Chief Commissioner said today that the issue of gang crime hasn’t just jumped up in the last few months, there have just been some serious incidents that have raised public attention. But I thought that last week African gang crime wasn’t a problem? It seems that the communication at Victoria Police isn’t quite working for them. As an observant social media user pointed out on Twitter, African gangs have been in the headlines since 2006. It isn’t a new problem, however, it’s a problem that hasn’t been fixed with issues like this happening a decade ago.

If we focus on Victoria Police’s latest press conference held this morning, specifically the point that some of the biggest funding and resources have been thrown at this issue. If that’s the case and the issue has been known for 18 months or so, how come it’s getting worse? There really was no answer to this question by the Minister.

Rate per 100,000 population for the age group of interest  GRAPHIC: Australian Bureau of Statistics

Even after this press conference, there is still no assurance that the people of Melbourne are safe. Victoria Police say they are throwing more resources at it, including the gang crime squad which will be assisting local investigators. But the increase of resources has been happening for a while and still, we are seeing police officers being assaulted, community centres being vandalised, Airbnb’s being trashed and police are fearing the possibility of ambushes.

Malcolm Turnbull spoke about Victoria’s youth crime issue, calling out Daniel Andrews, “This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.” The response from the Victorian Government wasn’t particularly friendly. Victoria Police also responded with Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp saying, “We don’t want to be locking up young people. We want to be proactive; we want to prevent crime in the first place.” Yes, but my question is if your prevention isn’t working are you just going to let them continue to offend?

This issue will no doubt continue to be a topic of discussion as the Victorian election looms closer. Youth crime could see the dismissal of the Labour government in Victoria if attacks continue to occur.

Featured Photo Source: Commonwealth of Australia

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