No place for youth gang crime
YOUTH gangs will be on the agenda this week with the start of two separate projects aimed at combating the rising problem on either side of the border.
The Safer Community Alliance will hold a private meeting to discuss strategies to halt the Tweed Shire’s problems, while Coolangatta and other parts of Queensland will be the focus of a new police intelligence project to stamp out street gangs.
The area’s youth crimes were brought under the spotlight in December when a West Tweed Heads resident fatally shot himself in the front yard of the youths he believed were responsible for a series of incidents of harassment and bullying.
Although the Safe Community Alliance is based in the Tweed Shire, it will also look at curbing the violence in Coolangatta, organiser Simon Nance said.
“Our main aim is to try and get something in place for the next lot of kids coming through; the younger age group,” he said.
The alliance will this week hold an invite-only meeting with a broad range of community members, including police, politicians, and people who work with troubled youth.
“We are trying to get a better idea of how to hold a much larger rally,” Mr Nance said.
On Sunday Queensland police launched a 12-month project to identify whether street gangs are developing into more sophisticated, violent operations.
Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart said the project aimed at nipping in the bud the potential for street gangs to develop into sophisticated organised crime as seen with the Bloods and Crips gangs in the USA and gangs in New Zealand.
Mr Stewart said the project involved determining how sophisticated and big street gangs were in Queensland, in particular southeast Queensland.
“While there is no evidence to suggest Queensland has an organised street gang network we cannot afford to miss or deny the early warning signs.”
Police Minister Neil Roberts said the project defined a street gang as any street-orientated youth group whose involvement in illegal activity was part of its group identity.
“This project is not about targeting gatherings of young people on the street going about their lawful business,” Mr Roberts said.
“The primary focus is on groups of people, primarily youth, displaying the elements of cohesion, organisation, criminal activity and violence – the elements apparent in gangs.
“The project will look at opportunistic crimes committed by suspected gang members such as robbery, theft and extortion.”
During the launch, police released footage of several gang-related incidents, including an attack by a pack of youths on an off-duty police officer and his girlfriend at Coolangatta in late 2007.
The project will be co-ordinated by an inspector with senior sergeants at the five regions, including the South Eastern.
Coolangatta Police Sergeant Steve Quinn said he was unsure how the project would affect them locally, but added operations would continue as normal until advised otherwise.
“We have our normal beat activity with increased numbers on the street to target anti-social andliquor-behaviour problems,” Sgt Quinn said.