Tackling youth crime

CRIME: SAPOL Operations Inspector Mark Hubbard speaks to the community at the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce forum on Wednesday.
CRIME: SAPOL Operations Inspector Mark Hubbard speaks to the community at the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce forum on Wednesday.

South Australian Police outlined their plan of attack for addressing youth crime in Whyalla last night, with raising $16,500 to put 10 local youths on an Operation Flinders deployment being at the top of the list.

Operations Inspector Mark Hubbard spoke to a packed crowd at the Foreshore Motor-Inn on Wednesday, detailing the extent of the problem in Whyalla and how the public can assist police in solving it.

The forum was organised by the Whyalla Chamber of Commerce Events Committee and attracted significant interest from the community, with more than 100 people registering to attend.

Statistics obtained from the Attorney-General's Department website revealed that in 2016 Whyalla Police apprehended 89 youths on a total of 251 occasions over a 12 month period.

But in the past six months alone police have apprehended a smaller number of youths on nearly the same number of occasions.

"Youth crime is a significant issue in Whyalla and the crime statistics are reflecting that," Mr Hubbard said.

Operation Flinders aims to take young people aged between 14 and 18 outside of their comfort zone and rebuild their confidence and people skills through positive experience and achievement.

Participants trek more than 100 kilometers over eight days in the far north Flinders Ranges and are confronted with physical, emotional and psychological challenges that must be overcome as a team.

Mr Hubbard also encouraged the community to advocate for improved young offender prevention programs in Whyalla.

"Those can help young people correct their behavior before their offending becomes really problematic," he said.

One of the significant legal barriers for police outlined by Mr Hubbard was the defence of infancy, referred to in Latin as doli incapax - the presumption that a child is incapable of crime under common law.

Mr Hubbard said doli incapax is a significant challenge for police in Whyalla, who are tasked with proving that a child aged between 10 and 14 knew their actions were morally wrong when offending.

"We spoke about some of the legislative and legal barriers that police have to overcome to prove offences for young people," he said.

Mr Hubbard said the high level of attendance at the meeting was evidence that locals 'really care about their town'.

"The forum was a really good way for the community to get involved and help police tackle the issue of youth crime," he said.

Whyalla Chamber of Commerce President Peter Klobucar said it was heartening to see a high level of participation by the community at the forum.

"This shows me there is a commitment by the community to do something about this issue...we are all part of the solution," he said.

Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin said it was exciting for the community to have plans in place to tackle the issue of youth crime.

"As a community we're going to work together to make this happen for our youth," she said.