• Townsville, Queensland. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Queensland Opposition leader Deb Frecklington's plan to enforce youth curfews in Townsville and Cairns criticised as a "very colonial" and uninformed approach to tackling youth crime in the region.
Douglas Smith

21 Oct 2020 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 21 Oct 2020 - 5:12 PM

A crime researcher who conducted extensive studies on curfew trials in Western Australia and New South Wales says enforced curfews do not reduce youth crime and only make the issues worse, after the leader of the Queensland Opposition unveiled a curfew plan to tackle youth crime.  

On Wednesday, Queensland’s LNP leader, Deb Frecklington, revealed a plan to enforce curfews of youth aged 17 and under in Townsville and Cairns which would include imposing fines on the parents of children found outside after hours. 

Under the trial, children under the age of 14 would be banned from being out on the streets without a good reason beyond 8.00 pm in Townsville and Cairns. For teens aged between 15 and 17, the curfew would extend to 10.00 pm.

However, Associate Professor of Youth Work from Edith Cowan University, Dr Trudi Cooper, has been been working with youth for three decades and conducted a government-funded study in 2017 on curfews, which found they did not reduce youth crime.   

“It didn’t actually do what they claimed it would do, which is make young people safer," Professor Cooper told NITV News. 

"When we conducted the research, we found that it didn't actually prevent youth crime. It just moved it to other areas of the city, which were more unsafe."

Also under the LNP's state election pledge, police would be given the power to detain youths found on the streets after curfew and issue their parents a $250 fine for every child detained.

Professor Cooper said the LNP had not thought through the implications of what a fine system could do to vulnerable families who may already be struggling financially. 

“The main problem is, potentially they haven’t thought through the implications of this, because, if you fine the parents and the parents don’t pay the fines, which is entirely possible, the parents become involved in various court systems and that ultimately will lead to incarceration of non-payment of fines,” she said. 

“If they’re going to fine the parents, that will be even worse….how's that going to work if people have got no money?”

Professor Cooper also said her study found many children who were out on the street past a certain time, were there because they did not feel safe at home. 

“The other thing is, it [curfew policies] presumes the young people are safer at home when they are out on the streets which is not always the case," she said. 

“Something interesting out of the research that we did was that one of the reasons some of the young people were on the streets was that they were keeping out of the way of trouble at home and they would go back home when the trouble was over.”

Cultural Healing Programs 

Speaking to NITV News on Wednesday, academic and Townsville Indigenous leader, Gracelyn Smallwood, said the plan to increase police officers in the regions was "very colonial".

Ms Smallwood said the city needed more "culturally appropriate" programs to deter youth from committing crimes. 

The lack of funding for community-based and led programs also left the door open for children to roam the streets, she said.

Earlier this year, Ms Smallwood also raised concerns over "vigilante groups" taking matters into their own hands. 

“Curfews and alcohol management plans have never worked anywhere in the world...so if they think this is going to work, It's just not going to work the curfews,'' said Ms Smallwood. 

“And what it is, is it's a minority of youths in the North that are committing crimes, and there is quite a number of Indigenous youth that need culturally appropriate healing programs.

“It could send a clear message to all youth, black and white that are not committing crime, that once you put a curfew on, it blankets claims all youth and it could increase youth crime.”

In Townsville on Wednesday, Ms Frecklington said "enough is enough" and that under her plan, anyone caught breaking the rule would be taken by police to a refuge until their parents or a social worker could come and get them.

The LNP is committing $5 million to fund juvenile refuges in both Townsville and Cairns.

“This is about making sure parents become responsible for their children," said Ms Frecklington. 

“We’ve got to get rid of the catch-and-release laws .. and give police the powers that they need.”

Townsville community concerns over vigilante groups targeting Indigenous youth
Indigenous Elders in Townsville say there is a growing issue with vigilante justice in the regional city, specifically with non-Indigenous people taking the law into their own hands and targeting Indigenous youth.