COPS TAKE ON TOWN IN STRIFE
Evictions, tougher liquor laws options to attack crime crisis
MOUNT Isa will push for a night curfew, evict visitors from overcrowded public housing, and send outsiders home to remote indigenous communities after a spike in crime rates in the mining town.
Police have deployed an extra 20 police in a monthlong crackdown, dubbed Op- eration Respect, in response to outcry by residents over social dysfunction, violent unrest and youth crime in the city.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart flew into the state’s northwest yesterday for crisis talks on how to tackle fears of an ice epidemic exacerbating high rates of alcohol, drug abuse and sly grogging.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this,’’ Mr Stewart said.
“Without looking at any specific drug, you’ve got to recognise there is substance abuse in this town by a whole range of different parts of the community.
“There have been a number of instances of criminal behaviour and social unrest that many in the community are worried about,” he said.
“There have been spikes in some events, overall Mt Isa is showing a downward trend in crime, but when you have crimes when a police beat is burnt down or cars travelling along roads are being rocked by groups of young people that is very serious.”
He said Operation Respect was not a heavy-handed approach of policing but would look at diversionary options to keep bored kids out of trouble.
“This is going to be a long haul, this is a marathon.
“Substance abuse is a big problem among juvenile groups in this town.”
Mt Isa Mayor Tony McGrady said calls for a night curfew for out-of-control children on the streets had been referred for action to the
State Government. “A curfew is on the table, that is a political position, there is no legislative option to have a curfew.
“But the local magistrate can impose a curfew on certain individuals and the option of a curfew will be referred to the Queensland Government,’’ he said.
“Parents have a responsibility as well.”
He said the days of the three- strikes- and- you’re- out rule for tenants in the city’s 900 public housing homes was over.
“When you’ve got 40 people living in one house is it any wonder kids want to stay on the streets rather than go home?
“There will be a limit to how many are allowed to live in one commission home, which are designed to accommodate about six people.
“When a person gets tenancy of a department home they will abide by the conditions which stipulate how many live in a house, or they will be out.”
Mr McGrady said they were also exploring the option of putting dozens of Aboriginals who squat in drinking camps in the river bed on buses to get them back to their own townships, many of which are dry communities.
Mt Isa Liquor Accord chairman Bernard Gillic pushed for new rules on showing identification when buying takeaway alcohol, and only al- lowing the purchase of cask wine after midday from bottle shops.
Police in four days have charged 64 people on 75 charges including public nuisance, obstructing police, wilful damage, unlicensed driving, drug possession, and consumption of liquor in a public place.
Inspector Joe Kitching said officers had performed 508 street checks and conducted 30 curfew checks to make sure offenders were complying with bail curfew imposed by the court.
“Every day we’ve also had community engagement strategies by PCYC, school based officers and police liaison officers,’’ he said.
“We had a fun night in Pioneer that had 73 kids turn up, and a basketball and indoor soccer night that 83 kids attended.
“The idea is to give bored kids something to do other than roam the streets.”