A whole-of-community approach is needed to tackle youth crime in regional areas such as Tamworth, NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley said in Gunnedah.
"We saw a spike in August, and youth crime went up, and we're now seeing a decline," Ms Catley said of the brief bolstered police operation in regional NSW.
Ms Catley was speaking to a room full of about 100 people on Friday, November 24, for the two-day major Crime Prevention and Community Safety Conference held in Gunnedah.
She said in the period from September 23, to October 29, Operation Regional Mongoose, which was established in September to combat aggravated break-and-enters and car thefts across the western region, resulted in the arrest of 96 people.
"Unfortunately, 73 of that number were juveniles," Ms Catley said.
However, the police minister also used her speech to call for a "whole-of-community" effort, saying "we cannot arrest our way out of complex issues like youth crime".
"It must be a coordinated and integrated approach that draws on services, education, health, family and child support and Aboriginal affairs," she said.
In response to demands in recent weeks to hold a parliamentary inquiry into regional crime, Ms Catley said "it's not the best way to approach this problem right now".
"I know that might not be what you want to hear, we want to get work done on this problem now, not in a year or two at the end of an inquiry when they hand down the report," she said.
CMA chair Jamie Chaffey and others have also asked for 24-hour policing in regional areas such as Gunnedah, but Ms Catley said "the local area commander makes those decisions about where resources go".
"As I understand it, the police station here in Gunnedah is manned 20 hours. And if it's required, that resources are needed, then they bring it in," she said.
Gunnedah councillor Katie McGrath said it was "really helpful" having the police minister in town to connect with relevant local stakeholders, "given the challenges our communities have been facing" with crime.
"I'm also excited about some of the movement in that space. So for example, paying police officers to train in Goulburn to break down that barrier to cover living expenses," she said.
As of March 2024, new police recruits will be paid $30,994 for 16-weeks of training at the facility in Goulburn, whereas before they had to do that part of their education for free.
Ms Catley said, "this financial barrier meant that there were so many good people who just could not afford to join the police force", and said that NSW is down by about 1500 police officers.