Police say they’ve been able to drastically reduce juvenile crime in the Cairns CBD by stopping gangs of youths abusing a child safety policy to score free bus rides into the city.
The ‘no child left behind’ policy was introduced by the State Government after the murder of Sunshine Coast boy Daniel Morcombe, who’d been abducted from a bus stop.
Cairns Police Senior Sergeant Dwayne Amos said large groups of youths had been travelling into the Cairns CBD every night, predominantly from the southern corridor.
“Not only is it disappointing, it actually compromises the whole point of that strategy,” he said.
“They’re travelling in, they’re not travelling home and they’re actually using it as an opportunity to go to areas where they normally wouldn’t get to and then when they get there, that’s when they create the disruption, anti-social behaviour and criminal activities.
“They’re not paying anything for the fares but if that’s not enough there’s also the significant damage that’s occurring to the buses as well as the interference with everyone else that’s on those buses.”
Police involved in Operation Romeo Paso partnered with Sunbus to put a stop to the situation.
Senior Sergeant Amos said it included putting plain clothes officers at suburban bus stops.
“We’ve used covert officers in those areas there and increasing the cameras so we have better opportunities to actually put those offenders before the court and make them accountable for the amount of damage they’re actually doing.”
“They’re going to be on camera every time so it’s a silly game to play.”
The results have been significant.
“Council had over 600 incidents that were occurring a month that were being captured on cameras in the CBD and within 6 weeks they’d dropped to 363, so that’s a 60 per cent decrease on those anti-social behaviours,” Senior Sergeant Amos said.
“We’re in the seventh week now and last weekend there was only one juvenile reported incident over the four day period.”
He added there’s no evidence that the anti-social behaviour has now been pushed out into the suburbs.
General Manager for Sunbus Jacqueline Williams said the number of damaged buses is also down by three per night.
“Since we’ve been working more closely on the graffiti and damage incidences they have dropped to around seven a night,” she said.
“That’s continuing to drop as we’re able to drill down on where people are getting on and off and the police getting involved.”