'Tipping point': Hundreds demand action at crime rally
TOWNSVILLE residents fed up with surging crime rates rallied in the hundreds, demanding politicians take action to make the streets safe.
The 300-strong crowd gathered at Heatley Park on Saturday in response to a wave of crime that in October led to an average of 11 homes and nearly 3 cars being broken into or stolen each day.
Rally organiser Julianne Wood said the event had been a "huge success" and she was more hopeful of its impact after receiving a call personally from Deputy Premier Jackie Trad not long afterwards.
"I think I'm even more hopeful that things will happen due to the reaction from the different politicians that were there," Ms Wood said.
"(I think they realise) 'Lord, there are a lot of people that are upset'.
"That has been highlighted in my eyes."
Residents demanded politicians reveal what legislative changes or policies they had in the pipeline to curb crime, toughen up sentencing in the courts, and asked for chroming to be made illegal among other things.
Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper said the rally was a "tipping point" and the three Labor members would be relaying residents' concerns to leadership.
"I think there was a lot of passion from the community for more to be done in the crime and youth crime space," he said.
"We heard a number of suggestions around strengthening legislation and that will be part of further works and discussions that we will have with the Premier."
Mr Harper reiterated that he would be calling on Townsville Stronger Action Community Group to resurrect a program to relocate problem families from the community.
He repeated Townsville MP Scott Stewart's call for controversial $9.4 million bail program Operation Regenerate to be scrapped.
Mr Harper also threw support behind the idea of moving youth offenders out bush to undertake training, similar to the "Ultimate Rural Training Centre" at Wonderland Station in Alice River which is run by Geoff and Vicky Toomby.
"We think there should be some program, out of our community, that (youth offenders) can do such as a training program endorsed by the Minister for Training," he said.
Mr Toomby's program involves bringing young offenders to the property to learn skills to help gain employment and break the cycle of reoffending.
The centre was force to shut due to a lack of State Government funding.
Federal Herbert MP Phillip Thompson said he was in discussions with the Toomby's for a program that could see veterans mentor at-risk youth at the centre.
Relocation sentencing is a key Katter's Australian Party policy and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto told the crowd it would be a "non-negotiable" should the party hold power after October 2020.
Mr Dametto said the KAP wants facilities like the Toomby's training centre to be set up in places like Lake Julius, north of Mount Isa.
"We want a hundred Geoff Toomby's," he said.
Opposition Police spokesman Trevor Watts said the LNP if elected would reintroduce breach of bail offences for youth criminals and base a $3 million police helicopter in Townsville in a bid to reduce car thefts.
"In addition to that, the police need the resources that have been promised (by the State Government," he said.
"They need to deliver these 53 officers now."
Residents also asked for chroming to be made illegal.
"These kids are going to kill themselves … seriously you're watching them just throw away their lives," one resident said.
Thuringowa MP Aaron Harper said he had raised the issue with the Health Minister and a roundtable meeting with government staff, police officers, and manufacturers of the deodorant sprays being misused would be held in December.
Senior police officers were also on hand to address concerns and debunk misconceptions, including that in Queensland the age of criminal responsibility remains 10-years-old.
Queensland Police Acting Commissioner of Operations Brian Codd revealed Operation Romeo Seville, which was launched on October 22 to "prevent, detect and prosecute individuals who participate in crime", would be extended.
Operation Romeo Seville was meant to run for 28 days, but would now continue for as long as needed, with police brass ready to "bring extra resources" to Townsville if required.
"We will not solve this purely by arresting and locking everyone up, there needs to be an investment," Mr Codd said.
"We look to work with community groups and with each other … across Townsville to solve these intractable problems."
Northern Region Commissioner Paul Taylor, in response to a question from a resident, said police were redirected from usual priorities like domestic violence cases or road trafficking in order to conduct the operation.
Residents' also wanted to know what their legal "rights" were in terms of defending their properties during a home invasion, why Magistrates were "light" on youth offenders, concerns that imprisonment at Cleveland Bay Youth Detention centre was ineffective and expensive and what alternatives would be put in place.