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Australia Vigilantes chasing stolen cars, patrolling streets, as youth crime rises in Townsville

03:16  29 september  2020
03:16  29 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Rise in crime , rise in anger. Some victims of crime say they understand why locals have taken matters into their own hands. 'It's not their job,' mother of criminal says. Sally* said her son, who stole cars as a teenager in Townsville , has been chased and almost bashed by vigilantes — but

Police cars chasing a stolen car through Townsville . Townsville police are bolstering their numbers during peak times and urging residents to hide their keys as authorities grapple with a troubling spike in youth crime across the city.

a dog wearing sunglasses: Robbie hides behind a clown mask when he patrols Townsville's streets. (ABC North Queensland: Sofie Wainwright) © Provided by ABC NEWS Robbie hides behind a clown mask when he patrols Townsville's streets. (ABC North Queensland: Sofie Wainwright)

Robbie* hides behind a bandana emblazoned with the face of a leering clown and listens to a scratchy police scanner as he trawls the streets of Townsville in the dead of night.

He spots two boys riding bikes and snaps his torch on them.

"Get the f*** home," he shouts.

For the past 19 years, while most people have been sleeping, Robbie says he has been trying to stop children breaking into homes and joyriding in stolen cars.

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A high-speed stolen car chase that allegedly included a woman being dragged from her car and a man being threatened with a syringe reignites anger over youth crime in Townsville and prompts demands for action.

Criminologists say Townsville has become a “crucible” for statewide criminal justice policy Police have raised alarm about escalating vigilante behaviour in Townsville and the prevalence of semi-organised street patrols , including mostly young white men who drive around looking for stolen cars .

"We've got the theory that if you look suss, you are suss," he said.

Robbie says he became a "patriot" after a mate died in a car crash involving juveniles.

He conducts "scenic drives" through crime hotspots, such as nursing homes, and gives suspicious youths "a mouthful" to try to prevent them from offending.

Sometimes Robbie goes a bit further by intercepting vehicles and giving the kids inside a "good flogging" before calling the police and fleeing.

"We provide something that the system doesn't," he said.

"What we provide is protection.

"This town's gonna explode — people have had enough."

Patriots, car chasers, vigilantes — whatever you call them — have been on the Townsville beat for years.

Robbie believes more people have been patrolling in recent months partly because of encouragement on anti-crime Facebook pages.

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Rise in crime, rise in anger

Some victims of crime say they understand why locals have taken matters into their own hands.

Weeks after two cars were stolen from her house, Seanne Breeding's new home was broken into.

"Chasing could end up leading to more accidents," Ms Breeding said.

"But they're also trying to stop these kids from doing more damage as well.

"In a way, if the justice system had cracked down on these kids, there wouldn't be a vigilante group."

In the past year, four teenagers have died inside a stolen car, locals have held forums and street protests calling for tougher penalties, and politicians have increasingly made noise ahead of the October election.

Police data shows the city had the highest number of break-ins in February, committed by adults and youths, out of any month over the past 19 years.

Since the 2017/18 financial year, the number of Townsville's youth crime property offences increased by 38.5 per cent and assaults rose by 72.5 per cent.

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The chase began just before 11 p.m. on Vanowen Street in Van Nuys after the man allegedly stole a Quality Jet Rooter van. Shortly after the pursuit began, the suspect smashed into a light pole on Vanowen Street , damaging a headlight on the van.

Queensland overall recorded a marginal increase over the same period.

Townsville police said in the past financial year there had been a 7 per cent reduction in the number of juvenile offenders, but about 10 per cent committed almost half of the city's youth crime.

That trend is reflected across Queensland — a Griffith University report found a decline in low-to-moderate offenders, but a rise in recidivist offenders who appear to have .

Griffith University criminologist Ross Homel said "violence" and "rough-house tactics" did not work on recidivist offenders.

"You've got to build relationships," he said.

"Not only with the kids themselves, but with their parents."

'It's not their job,' mother of criminal says

Sally* said her son, who stole cars as a teenager in Townsville, has been chased and almost bashed by vigilantes — but none of that was enough to stop him from reoffending.

"I understand [the vigilantes'] frustration, but it's not their job," she said.

"I'm horrified that grown adults think it's OK to take the law into their own hands with the aim of actually hurting whoever is in that vehicle."

Elder Russell Butler was concerned that predominately white vigilantes were chasing mostly Indigenous youths.

"It makes the ones who aren't offending at all very aware … they can't go up the street to the local shop," he said.

"They're afraid to."

Townsville District Police Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said officers would continue to charge "well-intentioned" people who broke the law.

"Just because you're a vigilante doesn't mean you get a free pass by the Queensland Police Service," Superintendent Hanlon said.

"Violence is not the answer … it always ends up terribly."

*Not their real names.

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usr: 3
This is interesting!