Slingshot clemency program hits targets
Police have taken an unusual approach to curb the number of homemade slingshots in a far north Queensland Indigenous community.
After reporting an increased number of slingshot-related incidents earlier in the year, authorities offered children and their parents a chance to surrender the weapons without reprisal.
A competition was started to guess how many slingshots could be collected in the community with multiple prizes on offer.
Officer in Charge of Yarrabah Police, Acting Senior Sergeant Andrew Pool says the slingshot problem required a fresh approach.
“A traditional law enforcement approach would have little effect, other than to overwhelm our own workloads,” he says.
“We wanted to engage the kids and come up with new ideas to help resolve the issue.”
A late night ‘pinking’ - a term used for when a projectile hits an object - on a police car prompted a change in tactics.
“I was on night shift with Senior Constable Adam Frew when our police car was ‘pinked’,” Acting Snr Sgt Pool says.
“Adam had an idea and the following night when we were ‘pinked’ and the kids ran off, Adam stopped the car and yelled out ‘We’ve got lollies’.
“It worked. The kids ran straight back to us, had a chat and grabbed a handful of lollies.”
Officers printed up flyers and spread the word via Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council, local schools and the community.
Within six weeks from June to July, 130 slingshots were surrendered to Yarrabah Police with three lucky winners taking home prizes.
“Slingshot season is now officially over and the kids are back to swimming, fishing and riding horses,” Acting Snr Sgt Pool says.
“Wilful damage complaints from slingshots have dropped to zero. The Council is ecstatic and can go back to spending the money on local services.
“Our local police social club were very generous and spent $250 on prizes. Considering the damage prior to the project, that $250 was money well spent to get such a positive result.
“Everyone recognised it was such a different way to approach a problem and instead of putting little kids through the criminal justice system.
“The kids themselves became part of the solution and were excited to hand in the slingshots for a chance to win something a lot more constructive.”
Police say the competition gave community members the chance to talk about the damage slingshots had caused people and rewarded good behaviour.