Revealed: Why Qld is the stolen vehicle capital of Australia

 

Children steal cars at a higher rate than any other age bracket and are responsible for half of all Queensland robberies, statistics reveal.

And Queensland is the only state where the number of car thefts continues to rise, with a 48 per cent increase from 2015 to 2019.

Bond University criminologist and former police detective Dr Terry Goldsworthy has labelled Queensland the "stolen vehicle capital of Australia" and says recidivist juvenile offenders continue to take cars because they know police won't give chase and the courts will not punish them.

A vehicle allegedly stolen by juveniles and used to ram a police car. Picture: Alix Sweeney
A vehicle allegedly stolen by juveniles and used to ram a police car. Picture: Alix Sweeney

His comments come as top police call for change following the deaths of Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter who were killed on Australia Day as they walked their dogs.

The couple, who were expecting their first child, were struck by a car allegedly stolen and driven by a 17-year-old.

The teen is facing two murder charges.

Matty Field and Kate Leadbetter.
Matty Field and Kate Leadbetter.

Speaking generally, Dr Goldsworthy said the laws need to change around the 10 or 15 per cent of juvenile offenders who don't respond to cautions or restorative justice orders.

"We need to look at that hardcore ten per cent - what is their involvement with drugs, what is their history, how did they begin offending and what kind of offences are they committing?" he said.

"Almost half of all robberies are committed by juveniles.

"The most common penalties we are seeing are basically a slap on the wrist.

"You have to send a message to kids that - this is what's going to happen if you break the law.

"But let's distinguish between the hardcore offenders and the kid who is on his first offence. Harsh laws don't need to apply to first offenders."

According to data from the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, Queensland recorded 9549 car thefts over the 2015/16 financial year.

That number rose significantly to 13,989 for the 2019/20 financial year.

A stolen Toyota LandCruiser allegedly driven by a teenager out on bail. Picture: Facebook
A stolen Toyota LandCruiser allegedly driven by a teenager out on bail. Picture: Facebook

Queensland had 26 per cent of the country's car thefts and was the only state to increase in that four year period.

And Queensland Government crime statistics show young offenders - aged 10 to 17 - were the most prolific when it came to stealing cars.

A total of 3411 child offenders were recorded as having stolen cars in the 2018/19 financial year.

The next highest age bracket was 18 to 24-year-olds, with 1952 offenders recorded as having stolen cars in that time.

Juveniles also committed more break and enters than any other age bracket, with 6424 offenders aged 10 to 17 in the 2018/19.

The next highest bracket was again 18 to 24-year-olds, with 2726 offenders.

Dr Goldsworthy said police needed to reconsider their approach to pursuits, with young car thieves well aware they would not be chased.

He said the reasoning that it resulted in young car thieves "driving dangerously" did not fly, given they were already driving dangerously.

"They are driving like that even without the police chasing them," he said.

"You just can't have these cars getting stolen at this rate and expect nothing to happen.

"They are not joy-riding at 60km/h."

A juvenile is arrested after alleged stealing a Toyota Prado and ramming a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney
A juvenile is arrested after alleged stealing a Toyota Prado and ramming a police vehicle. Picture: Alix Sweeney

LNP MP and former police officer Dan Purdie said the statistics alone "don't paint the true, harrowing picture of this criminality".

"Our frontline police have been dealing with a growing trend among dangerous juvenile recidivist criminals who have upped the ante, and night after night, are breaking into homes and targeting high performance vehicles, live-streaming their joy rides on social media and thumbing their nose at the police, who are powerless to stop them," he said.

"Unfortunately, as we've seen recently, in the hands of inexperienced and underage drivers, these high performance vehicles are dangerous weapons and the police effectively have their hands tied behind their backs.

"When there are no consequences to this sort of dangerous behaviour, there is no deterrent, which is one of the reasons we've seen crime rates continue to spiral out of control in Queensland.

"I commend the Police Commissioner for having the courage to call out the state's weak laws."

Police Minister Mark Ryan yesterday said "everything is on the table" in relation to ideas around juvenile crime.

"Nothing is ruled out, We're going to look at every proposal," he said.

"Obviously the instances over the last week highlight that there's more to be done."

 

 

Originally published as Revealed: Why Qld is the stolen vehicle capital of Australia



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