Teens as young as 13 are breaking into homes and embarking on a dangerous cycle of theft that will likely see them lead a life of crime, the Victims of Crime Commissioner says.
Commissioner Greg Davies has questioned the responsibility of parents of teen criminals as results showed the city’s aggravated burglary rate doubled in 12 months. Ballarat’s aggravated burglary rate was the state’s second highest in 2016, has surged by 248 per cent since 2012 and by 53 per cent since 2015.
Investigation and response Inspector Greg Payne said a core group of opportunistic thieves were taking advantage of lower level security to steal cars, mobile phones and credit cards.
“The vast majority of these offences are non-confrontational, non-violent and with no physical contact with the persons’ present. The offenders are entering the garages and homes and stealing whatever is quickly accessible,” Inspector Payne said.
Mr Davies slammed the trend of young people breaking into houses while people were sleeping and stealing cars, keys and cash as inexcusable, but said parents must watch their children.
“There’s been a massive increase. There are gangs – and I can’t avoid saying the g word – some of them as young as 13 and occasionally even younger who are organised and doing … aggravated burglaries, stealing cars assaulting people.”
Criminologist Diana Johns said the organisation of young offenders was aided by social media, which they used to meet up and boast about their offending.
“There’s definitely a phenomenon (of youth crime),” Dr Johns said.
“To some extent they have a bigger stage – there are fewer kids offending and ones left performing, are on a bigger stage. There’s definitely this phenomenon where the young people left in the system – their offending is increasing, their re-offending going up and the seriousness of their offending is escalating.”
Social media adds a “whole dimension to the speed at which kids can communicate with each other and (they are) posting images on social media and getting notoriety and kudos,” Dr Johns said.
Inspector Payne said 70 per cent of all aggravated burglaries committed involved unsecured garages and homes. He said police had committed extra resources to targeting known offenders with success, but needed the community to co-operate.
“It is essential that the community realise how we can prevent crime together by taking the time to secure their homes, garages, cars and property by not leaving valuables in unlocked vehicles or keys, bags easily accessible to opportunistic thieves,” Inspector Payne said.
“We don’t want any member of our community to feel unsafe in their home.
“That’s why we are absolutely dedicated to continuing to target the offenders committing these crimes and taking preventative and proactive measures.”
Police remain confident that through working with courts, social services and families they will be able to curb the problem – but Mr Davies said it was an issue that must to be addressed.
“We have to either impact on it to reduce it or we accept it. Surely to god no one is going to say this (should be) our future,” Mr Davies said.