Carnarvon at crisis point with youth anti-social behaviour and vandalism

Phoebe PinMidwest Times
About 300 carnarvon residents gathered to petition the State Government to intervene on youth crime
Camera IconAbout 300 carnarvon residents gathered to petition the State Government to intervene on youth crime Credit: Supplied

Community members have described Carnarvon as a powder keg on the verge of explosion, with some worried an escalation in youth crime will end in tragedy if vigilantes take matters into their own hands.

About 300 residents gathered last week to launch a petition for the State Government to address rampant anti-social behaviour and crime, which some say has reached an all-time high.

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said there appeared to be no end in sight to the crime wave. Homes have been broken into up to 12 times, charity stores have been robbed, buildings have been ram-raided and children have been lying in the middle of the road and then jumping into cars when motorists are forced to stop.

“Police officers are trying to do their job and this keeps on happening,” he said.

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“There has been a reluctance to put kids in jail, which I totally understand. But there has been no support programs to try and work with those kids or those families, so they just keep reoffending.”

Mr Catania said he was worried the situation would culminate in a child offender or victim of crime getting seriously hurt.

“People are telling me of stories where they are thinking they are just going to take things into their own hands ... It’s a concern of vigilantism,” he said.

“I am extremely concerned that someone is going to get hurt defending their property, their possessions or themselves.

“I am worried that someone is going to die out of it.”

Carnarvon Chamber of Commerce president Paul Dixon said business owners were concerned vandalism was leaving shopfronts looking like “eyesores”, with some employees also saying they no longer felt comfortable coming to work.

“Police are doing a tremendous job with the resources they have ... but we are being overwhelmed,” he said.

Mr Dixon is also a local security agent and said requests for patrols around homes, businesses and public facilities had spiked.

“When schools are getting continually breaking into, it’s just disappointing,” he said.

“I’ve been here for 22 years and it has never been like this. Suddenly we’ve reached this point very quickly.”

Mr Catania said the State Government now needed to intervene to address the limited social housing, high rates of domestic violence, low availability of government accommodation for essential service workers and other factors which have contributed to the escalation of anti-social behaviour in Carnarvon.

“It cannot just be a community fix. We do not have the resources or the financial capacity,” he said.

“This cannot be resolved at a local level, the Premier has to intervene and allocate the proper resources and funds to a specialised task force to curb what’s going on.”

His comments comes as the Shire of Carnarvon was forced to suspend its Mayu-Mia and Community Connectus youth services program due to staff safety concerns.

Shire chief executive Andrea Selvey said most young people who engaged with the program were respectful and well-behaved, but others were putting staff at risk of harm.

“A small number of young people have created a situation where we do not feel confident that our staff are able to operate in a safe environment,” she said.

Shire president Eddie Smith said the program would be put on hold for the immediate future while additional security measures could be arranged.

Cr Smith said State Government intervention was needed to ensure the safety of youth and the broader community into the future.

“We hope that the State Government, who provide some funding for these and other youth services in Carnarvon, will work with us to find positive long-term solutions to these complex issues which are not unique to our community,” he said.

“We are looking forward to resolving the current situation and moving forward in a positive way as the amazing community and town we know, as soon as possible.”

A State Government spokesperson said WA Police has “significantly” increased the police presence in Carnarvon over the past several weeks and the government continued to invest in a range of crime prevention programs.

“Our efforts over the past five years have been focused on intensive family support services, intervention and diversional services for young people at risk and family and domestic violence outreach, counselling and crisis accommodation,” they said.

“State Government agencies on the ground and local police regularly meet to progress local-based solutions, with a focus on youth truancy, housing issues and drug and alcohol fuelled violence.

“There are millions of dollars being invested in social housing, including new builds, refurbishments and maintenance.

“These are complex and difficult issues to address, but the programs we have in place are achieving positive, locally-driven results.

“We need everyone in the community to contribute positively, and we would urge the local member to work with police and community services instead of only offering criticism from the sidelines.”

It is understood there are two social housing properties under construction in Carnarvon, with six social housing refurbishment works underway and an additional two completed.

The State Government is scoping a further six refurbishment works for social housing that are expected to go out to tender early next year.

This is in addition to maintenance works to 19 social housing with an additional four currently underway.

Two vacant GROH properties are being scoped for maintenance and refurbishment works to bring them back in to service.

Communities’ GROH program is engaging with the Shire of Carnarvon and private developers on build to lease arrangements, leveraging Shire and private land to create more supply for GROH.

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