Child crime won’t be solved by jail time

LOCKING up kids and throwing away the keys isn’t the answer to tackling troubled youth. 

A spike in break and enters in recent weeks has shone a spotlight on the scourge of youth crime in Tamworth –with five children, one as young as 11, charged with a raft of property offences.

There has since been much debate around the most effective way to engage with kids, at risk of turning to a life of crime. 

It’s easy to see why victims of crime often call for a crackdown and harsher punishments for convicted offenders – putting an offender in jail takes them off the streets and teaches them a hard lesson.

When it comes to crime, often in the firing line of blame stand police and the court system. But the issue does not start and end with law enforcement. 

In the past, it has sadly become easier to throw someone in jail than to develop a long-term strategy that reduces the risk of them re-offending down the track.

But now, engaging and educating at-risk youth is playing a far greater role in how we combat crime. 

The recently-established Tamworth Regional Youth Council has the potential to be a driving force in tackling the city’s crime scourge. 

The Tamworth Crime Prevention Working Group has made it a priority to work closely with the youth council to address drug issues within the community, which play a fair share in crime rates.

Giving youths a voice will allow the city’s leaders to understand a generation that they probably haven’t done before.

There is no denying that something needs to be done when it comes to kids turning to crime. Collaboration between the city’s youth council and crime prevention group has its eyes set in the right direction. 

It comes on the back of  Acting Magistrate Mal MacPherson spearheading a radical plan to overhaul Tamworth’s troubled youth and get kids back on track and into the education system.

The proposal, called Changing Mindsets, will see a Tamworth-based coordinator intensely manage disengaged children and oversee an intervention plan that targets the issue fuelling offending. 

Sure, jail time might teach kids a lesson. But it’s a short-term solution and there are chances of re-offending without adequate rehabilitation or education.

Engaging at-risk kids before they turn to crime can only be a good thing.

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