Delivering solutions for a safe community
Queensland’s criminal justice system is responding to increasingly complex individuals, in a context of substantial system reform.
Involvement in crime is a complex issue and there is evidence to indicate Queensland’s criminal justice system is responding to increasingly complex individuals. This is apparent in data showing a decline in the rates of individual adult (18 years and over) and youth (10 to 17 years) offenders in contact with police, while the average number of offences allegedly being committed is increasing, particularly for youth offenders.
Unique offender rates continued the decade long downward trend for both adults and youth. With respect to adults there were 2,276.6 unique adult offenders per 100,000 persons in 2021–22 (down 19 per cent over the 10 years) and the rate of unique youth offenders declined to 1,926.4 per 100,000 persons aged 10 to 17 years, the lowest recorded over the last 10 years (Charts 6 and 7). Reductions in young offenders has resulted in a ‘concentration effect’, with more complex youth remaining in contact with the criminal justice system and observed increases in some rates among older offenders pointing to a cohort of people entrenched in criminal behaviour.
In response, there has been substantial system investment and reform to address a range of issues being dealt with by Queensland’s criminal justice system. For example, there have been multiple government initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of domestic and family violence and sexual offences such as those recommended by the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce and the Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police Service Responses to Domestic and Family Violence. Similarly, youth offending continues to be a focus of government reform with the Youth Justice Taskforce and recently announced investments in the youth justice system focused on targeting serious repeat offenders, tackling the complex issues of youth crime and supporting community safety.
The Queensland Government is focussed on keeping communities safe
The Queensland Government has been listening and taking action to get the balance right.
Strengthened legislation targeting serious high-risk offenders is backed by evidence-based programs, increased front-line resources, and increased supports to the community to prevent crime and enhance assistance to victims.
We continue to fund programs and services that the evidence tells us are effective in reducing reoffending and increasing community safety, working in partnership with community controlled organisations and communities to deliver services and tailor support for First Nations young people.
Early intervention and prevention remains a priority. Since the 2022–23 Budget, the Queensland Government has invested $446.4 million over 5-years, with $37 million per annum ongoing, towards a comprehensive youth justice reform program addressing 3 key strategic priorities:
- targeting serious repeat offenders
- supporting community safety
- tackling the complex causes of youth crime.
A further $89.7 million over 3 years is being directed to address capacity issues at youth detention centres and support preparations for the 2 new youth detention centres.
Supporting community safety
Community safety is paramount. This Budget provides funding of $132 million over 4 years to assist Queenslanders with crime prevention and providing support to victims. This includes:
- $64 million for policing responses including high visibility patrols and specialist youth crime rapid response squads
- $30 million to help seniors secure their homes
- $15 million to empower communities to develop local solutions to youth crime issues
- $10 million for a trial to subsidise the cost for Queenslanders to install vehicle immobilisers in Cairns, Townsville and Mount Isa
- $9 million to respond better to victims of property crime where violence or a threat of violence has occurred, including for Victim Assist Queensland.
On 4 May 2023, the government announced the commencement of industry consultation in the lead up to a rollout of the remote engine immobiliser trial mid-2023. The trial will be available to eligible residents of Mount Isa, Cairns and Townsville and offer up to 20,000 subsidy vouchers to offset the cost for installing the approved device. Immobilisers are an important tool in reducing stolen vehicle crime that may have devastating consequences for vehicle owners, the wider community and offenders alike.
The government will also continue to progress work on 2 new youth detention centres for Queensland. The first of these will be built at the Woodford Correctional Precinct north west of Brisbane, with the expenditure subject to commercial negotiation with potential contractors.
A second youth detention centre is proposed to be built in Cairns and site selection for this centre is currently underway. This will provide youth detention services closer to where young people live, strengthening connection to family, community, country and support services during detention and transition from detention.
Targeting serious repeat offenders
For the small group of young people who commit serious, repeat offences, the youth justice system delivers intensive responses, therapeutic initiatives and high levels of supervision to ensure an appropriate response given the nature of offences committed.
On 22 March 2023, amendments to youth justice related legislation resulting from the Strengthening Community Safety Act 2023 came into effect. The act amended the youth justice bail and youth justice sentencing frameworks, making breach of bail an offence for children, extending the trial of electronic monitoring of eligible young people on bail for 2 years, removed the mandatory requirement for police to consider alternatives to arrest for a child who is on bail for an indictable offence or for contravention of certain domestic violence orders, and expanded the presumption against bail.
Funding of $37 million over 4 years has been provided to support these amendments, and to ensure that repeat offenders spend less time on remand and more time serving their sentences.
Tackling the complex causes of youth crime
The vast majority of young people who come into contact with the youth justice system do not offend again following diversionary and rehabilitation programs. To help break the destructive cycle of offending, the government is investing a further $267.5 million in programs that focus on addressing the complex causes of youth crime.
Since its inception in May 2020, the Youth Co-Responder Teams (YCRT) initiative has had more than 60,000 direct interactions with young people across the state. The initiative gives young people in the early stages of offending, the chance to stay out of trouble with the law and the consequences of entering the youth justice system. YCRTs consist of police and youth justice staff who also work proactively with young people and their families to tackle issues that may be contributing to re-offending, including non-compliance with bail conditions.
That is why the government has provided $96.2 million over 4 years to continue the co-responder model and expand YCRTs into Toowoomba, Mount Isa, Ipswich, South Brisbane and the Fraser Coast.
Increased funding of $29.4 million over 4 years and $7.4 million per annum ongoing is being provided to support location specific diversionary responses to youth crime and young people engaging in anti-social behaviour, including after-hours support, cultural based mentorship and rehabilitation, bridging to flexi-school and case management, and alternative opportunities and activities for at-risk young people.
An additional $50 million over 2 years from 2023–24 will be provided for infrastructure development at priority Queensland Police-Citizen Youth Club (PCYC) sites to improve frontline social program delivery and intervention initiatives for vulnerable youths and $6 million to enable PCYC police officers to increase their focus on social programs aimed at the prevention of youth crime.
It is imperative that we invest in programs and initiatives to support and engage with our youth, including those that are vulnerable and/or disadvantaged, as they are the future of our great state of Queensland.