53 Where are the par­ents?

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

THE chaos of wild youth scam­per­ing over po­lice cars and at­tack­ing of­fi­cers last Sun­day would be bad enough if it was an iso­lated event. But it fol­lowed sim­i­lar vi­o­lence at a Werribee party in De­cem­ber, which re­quired the riot po­lice. And a Hawai­ian-themed beach party in Point Lons­dale in Jan­uary.

There, of­fi­cers were pelted with bot­tles as they tried to con­trol a party of 300 youths.

Speak­ing in to­day’s Sun­day Her­ald Sun, Com­man­der Stuart Bate­son, of the Com­mu­ni­ties Divi­sion, speaks of huge par­ties where pack men­tal­i­ties de­velop. In such cir­cum­stances, po­lice of­fi­cers are at­tacked, with rocks and sticks, and events quickly spi­ral out of con­trol.

The party hosts, Mr Bate­son points out, are left think­ing: “Oh my God, what is hap­pen­ing?”

So, too, is every­one else. Though such scenes re­main rare, they are be­com­ing more com­mon. And the rea­sons for the rise of such anti-so­cial be­hav­iour need to be un­der­stood.

This grow­ing men­ace can­not be­come so rou­tine that po­lice find that they are play­ing the dan­ger­ous role of se­cu­rity ev­ery week­end for ram­pag­ing youths who — sup­pos­edly in the pur­suit of a party — dis­play such a dis­turb­ing lack of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The ob­vi­ous ques­tion in these cases is this: where are the par­ents?

These kids are as young as 14. The no­tion that the par­ents are un­aware or caught out sim­ply doesn’t hold in this age of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Par­ents need to be more in­volved. They can­not claim to be too busy or pre­oc­cu­pied, not when their chil­dren are set­ting out to com­mit vi­o­lence against po­lice.

This lack of over­sight war­rants deeper anal­y­sis, given that it may ex­plain some of the root causes for the poor be­hav­iour and the dis­play of such bla­tant dis­re­spect for au­thor­ity.

Po­lice re­sources are far too valu­able to be tan­gled in do­mes­tic dis­tur­bances trig­gered by chil­dren who — given their be­havioural ten­den­cies — could use some bet­ter role models.

Par­ents must be held ac­count­able when po­lice are at­tacked by chil­dren.

At the very least, par­ents have to know where their chil­dren are and what they are do­ing.

The use of so­cial me­dia in the gate­crash­ing of par­ties is a ma­jor is­sue. It al­lows the swift mo­bil­is­ing of large numbers. What may be a civil gath­er­ing can quickly get out of hand once malev­o­lent el­e­ments de­cide to pile on a party.

Mr Bate­son speaks of the need for good plan­ning for par­ties.

It is com­mon prac­tice, for ex­am­ple, now for clear lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion to be es­tab­lished be­tween the par­ents of the host and guests, so that the pa­ram­e­ters of the event it­self are clearly un­der­stood.

It makes sense that par­ties that are well or­gan­ised and clearly man­aged are less likely to turn bad if out­siders try to in­ter­rupt them.

It also dou­bles as a com­mu­nity ser­vice — too much po­lice time is wasted by at­tend­ing to calls to turn down the mu­sic and the like. Vic­to­ria po­lice of­fi­cers are not glo­ri­fied bounc­ers. They are trained pro­fes­sion­als whose ser­vice is best re­served for un­avoid­able crises.

The lack of cour­tesy shown by wild gate­crash­ers dove­tails into a wider lack of re­spect for the law. The open hos­til­ity shown to po­lice in re­cent cases is very dis­turb­ing.

It’s one thing to avoid a po­lice of­fi­cer, quite another to join in a mob in­tent on in­flict­ing harm on those who serve to up­hold the law.

It seems to re­flect a grow­ing at­ti­tude that says that peo­ple can do what they like when they like and yet suf­fer few, if any, con­se­quences. The im­plied no­tion of do­ing the right thing, of help­ing out or re­turn­ing a favour, ap­pears to have been lost in this blind pur­suit of mis­chief.

In North Melbourne last week­end, a $460-a-night rental home ad­ver­tised for adults only was said to filled by 40-50 youths at 2am.

They smashed walls, threw rub­bish bins and stole elec­tri­cal equip­ment. When po­lice ar­rived, they abused of­fi­cers and smashed po­lice car wind­screens.

Neigh­bours who wit­nessed the ram­pages feared for their safety. They de­scribed an ab­ject lack of care for the po­lice pres­ence — in­stead, the youths yelled abuse at them. They ran away — oth­er­wise, they showed lit­tle fear of con­se­quences.

“It’s crim­i­nal,” Sen-Sgt Adam Tan­ner said. “It’s not some­thing that we tol­er­ate.”

These youths should face the full force of the law. Their par­ents should be grilled. And the com­mu­nity must find the an­swers for why these young peo­ple ap­pear to have no care for their fel­low Vic­to­ri­ans.

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