New programs are in place

By Liz Mellino

For the past two years, Mooroopna Police have been working to combat youth-related crime in the town.

While residents are concerned with the large number of break-ins in recent months, Mooroopna Police Sergeant Louise Richards said there had not been a rise in the number of crimes in the area.

Instead, she said it was something that had been an issue in the area for close to two years.

‘‘Back in 2016 there was more anti-social behaviour by disengaged youths and the community weren’t happy about it,’’ she said.

‘‘That anti-social behaviour involved throwing rocks at moving cars, and riding scooters through main streets or supermarkets, and back then we tried to target those kids in a positive way.’’

Police worked with local supermarkets to offer fruit to these youths when they passed through the store, which Sgt Richards said helped to build a positive relationship between the two parties.

A number of interventions were put into place by police at the time, who worked alongside Rumbalara and other support services such as The Bridge, Berry Street and ASHE.

‘‘Unfortunately as these youths have gotten older their offending has escalated to what could now be called crime,’’ Sgt Richards said.

‘‘An issue is boredom within the youth ... and unfortunately some of them come from disengaged families which makes it difficult.’’

To combat this a number of new programs have since been initiated in the town, which Sgt Richards said were a continual work in progress.

Support group

A youth support group is being run from Rumbalara each week and a basketball court was recently established in Stevens Cres, Mooroopna.

‘‘Residents spoke to the youths around that area to see what they were wanting from their town,’’ Sgt Richards said.

‘‘We’re hoping the basketball court becomes an area they can congregate in, something they want to have and hopefully will respect.’’

The GROOP Program was also established in conjunction with police last month, which involves eight students working towards a more positive future.

Sgt Richards said the program worked alongside Koori engagement support officers, elders and justice workers to help participants with their education plans, goals and cultural identities.

‘‘Basically it gives them that older person to look up to and that’s what a lot of these youths are missing,’’ she said.

Crime Prevention Officer Glenn Gibson said while positive work was being completed with youth in the area, he acknowledged the effect recent break-ins had had on the Mooroopna community.

‘‘We do sympathise with what everyone went through, things happened and the community suffered grief,’’ he said.

‘‘A lot of good work is currently being done to ensure these youths are engaged with something more positive.’’

He encouraged the community to work together to stay vigilant when times get tough and report any suspicious activity they come across.

‘‘We get good information from the community, they are our eyes and ears,’’ Sen Const Gibson said.

‘‘If someone becomes aware of a situation, let us know so that we can act and hopefully get these people integrated with another organisation.’’