SPE­CIAL RE­PORT BLING RING RUN BY VUIT­TON VIL­LAINS

Bring 17-year-old Po­lice fear new laws that jus­tice sys­tem will of­fend­ers into the youth it to the law give teens a li­cence to stick

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - PAULA DONEMAN KATE KYRIACOU MARLINA WHOP

THEY’RE the “Vuit­ton Vil­lains” ter­ror­is­ing Bris­bane’s north­side, with mem­bers fac­ing at least 1000 charges from a two-year crime spree.

The 50-mem­ber street gang of teens aged be­tween 14 and 17 is tar­get­ing lux­ury homes and steal­ing cars, cash and jew­ellery to fund lav­ish life­styles.

Their 17-year-old ring­leader sells stolen cars worth up to $100,000 to mem­bers for $500 so he can buy de­signer clothes, al­co­hol and throw par­ties in ho­tel rooms.

A six-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion by 7 News into the gang re­veals that po­lice are strug­gling to stop them.

Po­lice say that ev­ery mem­ber of the group is a re­peat of­fender and the ju­ve­niles laugh at the jus­tice sys­tem and get “no real penalty” for their of­ten vi­o­lent and crim­i­nal be­hav­iour.

Po­lice re­peat­edly tar­get and charge gang mem­bers, but they re­of­fend while on bail, with de­ten­tion and court penal­ties fail­ing to de­ter them.

And they fear new laws that bring Queens­land 17-year-old of­fend­ers into the youth jus­tice sys­tem from to­mor­row will give teens a free ride for an ex­tra year.

“Now with 17year-olds be­ing treated as ju­ve­niles in­stead of adults, it will give them an­other year to of­fend with anonymity and with­out ram­i­fi­ca­tions,’’ a po­lice of­fi­cer told 7 News.

The net­work ob­tained a con­fi­den­tial Queens­land Po­lice re­port that shows a spike in ju­ve­nile of­fend­ing, with kids us­ing so­cial me­dia to con­nect and plan crime.

The gang uses cars to joyride at dan­ger­ous speeds and com­mit other of­fences.

They of­ten taunt po­lice to chase them and have rammed po­lice cars to avoid cap­ture. Some mem­bers use their ill­got­ten gains to buy the drug ice.

One gang mem­ber told 7 News they were a “group of boys, falling into the wrong path do­ing the wrong things I guess”.

“(We) just do it for the money and the thrill, the adrenalin…” said the mem­ber, who can­not be iden­ti­fied as he is a ju­ve­nile of­fender.

Po­lice say they are es­ca­lat­ing from sneak-in breaks at night to brazen day­light smash and grabs.

The con­fi­den­tial po­lice re­port iden­ti­fies fac­tors driv­ing crime in Queens­land over the last two fi­nan­cial years.

It also re­vealed that while of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics over the past eight years showed the num­ber of ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers was sta­ble, Queens­land po­lice re­port­ing shows “sig­nif­i­cant fluc­tu­a­tions”.

“Across a num­ber of crime types, there is an in­crease in the num­ber of unique ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers. Sim­i­larly, ju­ve­niles are form­ing a grow­ing pro­por­tion of of­fend­ers and as a group are com­mit­ting in­creas­ing num­bers of of­fences,” the re­port says.

“So­cial me­dia may be one fac­tor driv­ing the in­creased num­ber, and pos­si­ble ca­pa­bil­ity, of un­law­ful en­try ju­ven­nile of­fend­ers.

“Ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers in n More­ton Dis­trict have been n ob­served to con­nect on so­cial al me­dia to ex­pand crim­i­nal so­cial net­works, boast about il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties and en­cour­age oth­ers on the com­mis­sion of on­line of­fences,” it says.

The three key crime ar­eas are rob­beries, break-ins and car theft.

The num­ber of ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers com­mit­ting rob­beries jumped 33 per cent be­tween the 2015/16 fi­nan­cial year from 2016/17. In com­par­i­son, adult of­fend­ers recorded a 12 per cent rise.

And the re­port re­veals crimes in­volv­ing ju­ve­nile fe­males are in­creas­ing, with teenage girls re­spon­si­ble for 27 per cent of young of­fend­ers com­mit­ting rob­beries.

Youths are more likely to re­of­fend than adults while on bail, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion from the Toowoomba po­lice dis­trict, the re­port found.

“Across all of­fend­ers, re­of­fend­ing was at a rate of one in ev­ery three of­fend­ers while on bail – for ju­ve­niles more than half re­of­fended.”

A Anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion sug­gests ju­ve­niles on bail were re­of­fend­ing.

“If this is oc­cur­ring, the lack of con­se­quences for their be­hav­iour will not only en­cour­age those of­fend­ers to keep of­fend­ing, but may en­cour­age oth­ers to be­come in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties as well,’’ ac­cord­ing to re­port on un­der­stand­ing what drives ju­ve­nile crime.

QUT School of Jus­tice and Law Pro­fes­sor Kerry Car­ring­ton said that most young peo­ple were law-abid­ing and those who did of- fend, of­ten did it t only once.

Pro­fes­sor Car- ring­ton told 7 News s that there needed d to be many more e al­ter­na­tives to o de­ten­tion like e youth con­fer­enc- ing and com­mun- ity in­ter­ven­tion.

Bris­bane e Youth Ad­vo­cacy Cen­tre Di­rec­tor Janet Wright t said that less s than 1 per cent t of ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers will ap­pear in court.

“We have to put youth crime and youth of­fend­ing into con­text…,” she told 7 News.

Ms Wright said most ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers were in­volved in drugs, skipped school, ex­pe­ri­enced do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and were known to the Child Safety depart­ment.

Po­lice will­ing to speak on the is­sue said that a ma­jor­ity of them do not want to see kids be­hind bars.

“We don’t want to lock them up, we just don’t want them to com­mit crimes and

h ha rm them­selves or oth­ers,” they said.

“Most of the time, the fam­i­lies know us by name and we know them by name. But it’s not just up to us.

“In many cases, by the time we take them to court, it’s af­ter mul­ti­ple deal­ings with po­lice, but with some, it gets to a point where we can­not stop them,” they said.

In one case, a fe­male ju­ve­nile of­fender was given pro­ba­tion over and over through­out a five-year crime spree that saw her go from a prop­erty crime of­fender at 12 years old to a vi­o­lent car thief and car­jacker four years later. The girl was re­leased from her sec­ond stint in ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion af­ter serv­ing only a fifth of her sen­tence late last year. She was serv­ing time for rob­bery, bur­glary and car theft.

In the past month, she has been charged with steal­ing a lux­ury car, which she rolled, an at­tempted car­jack­ing and car­jack­ing.

Some po­lice told 7 News that they do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to stop ju­ve­niles go­ing to court “be­cause that’s where the sys­tem lets them down”.

‘ ( WE) JUST DO IT FOR THE MONEY AND THE THRILL, THE ADRENALIN’

CRIME SPREE: SP So­cial me­dia boasts posted by Bris­bane’s teen gang­sters.

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