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Youth crime ‘will simply not go away’, says Police Association secretary Ron Iddles

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp spoke about how police were tackling the problem of youth crime. Photo: Penny Stephens Police Association secretary Ron Iddles says escalating youth crime “will simply not go away”. Photo: Simon Schluter
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Police in Victoria will be given extended powers and young offenders have been warned “sob stories” won’t save them from the law as Premier Daniel Andrews attempts to curb a spike in violent youth crime.

Mr Andrews announced plans for new carjacking laws on Sunday, carrying jail sentences of up to 25 years. He said a taskforce set up to tackle youth crime had made 129 arrests since May.

But Police Association secretary Ron Iddles said unless underlying policing issues were tackled, rising youth crime “will simply not go away”.

Mr Iddles said critically low police numbers and a “wafer-thin proactive police presence” on Melbourne’s streets needed to be addressed.

“For an organisation that said it could not arrest its way out of problems, Victoria Police suddenly appears to give it a red-hot go,” Mr Iddles said.

There is growing fear in Melbourne’s west and south-east, as young criminals appear to be increasingly violent in their attacks.

Mr Andrews attempted to reassure the community, speaking alongside Police Minister Lisa Neville and Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner of regional operations Andrew Crisp on Sunday.

He said a return to Parliament for the spring session would bring changes to the law to “make sure Victoria Police have the funding, the technology and the statute book that they need to keep Victorians safe”.

The move follows Operation Cosmas – set up in May by Victoria Police and the state government to tackle violent crime after a series of aggravated burglaries and carjackings in Victoria.

Of the 129 arrests so far, 94 offenders were under 17.

New laws to make carjacking and aggravated carjacking specific offences will be introduced into Parliament in the coming months.

A spokesman for Police Minister Lisa Neville said the new offences would carry a maximum 15-year sentence for carjacking, and 25 years for aggravated carjacking.

Deputy Commissioner of regional operations Andrew Crisp said police would also work with the government to discuss changes to juvenile justice and bail.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said on Friday that crime syndicates were getting young people to do their “dirty work” through the promise of cash and a thrill-seeking lifestyle.

Mr Crisp said a majority of the 129 arrests were repeat offenders aged between 13 and 17.

“We’re actually seeing a shrinking cohort of younger people committing offences, but the worrying trend we’re seeing overall is there’s a smaller number of offenders that are committing more offences at a younger age and are more serious in the nature of the offending itself,” he said.

“Nearly 100 of those arrested are 17 years and younger and quite a number of those are under 15 years of age.”

Ms Neville said she wanted to help break a “cycle of offending”.

“What we’re seeing is a small but very serious amount of offences occurring in certain communities,” she said.

“If you’ve been the victim of a home invasion or a carjacking, that will touch you, your family, your friends, and it creates a huge amount of fear.

“How do we focus on this particular small group of offenders, to make sure we break the cycle of offending? We’ve got to stop this. We want to see the current level of fear in our community diminished.”

The Premier said there was work to be done within some communities in Melbourne, to help get young people into work and employment.

“Often I think these people are disconnected from their own family, disconnected from the Victorian economy, and perhaps they don’t think there is a pathway for them to be prosperous,” he said.

“But there will be no sob stories to explain away violent behaviour. Victoria Police will find you, and you will feel the full force of the law.”

The carjacking offences will be defined as: Carjacking: A person would be guilty of carjacking if they use force on any person or puts/seeks to put any person in fear that they or another person will be subjected to force.Aggravated carjacking: If a person commits any carjacking and at the time has with him/her a firearm, imitation firearm, offensive weapon (knife), explosive or imitation explosive. 

In NSW, carjacking and aggravated carjacking carry shorter maximum sentences of 10 and 14 years respectively.

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