Calls for action after teens killed in crash
THE deaths of four teens in a stolen car in Townsville have reignited calls by community leaders for a crackdown on youth crime.
Among those voicing their concerns was Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers who said that it was time to get tougher on parents and force them to play a role in order to break a "generational cycle".
"All levels of government need to be involved if we are going to put an end to the juvenile crime epidemic."
His comments come after the deaths of Lucius Hill, 13, Cayenne Nona, 14, Rayveena Coolwell, 15, and Aaliyah Tepaa-Brown, 17, who were all killed when the alleged stolen car that they were travelling in smashed into a traffic light pole in Townsville on Sunday morning.
The 14-year-old boy accused of stealing the car was yesterday remanded in custody after facing Townsville Children's Court charged with dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death. He has also been charged with two counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle and burglary, as well as one count of possessing dangerous drugs.
The boy made no application for bail and will appear at court again on June 30.
Child Protection and Investigation Unit officer-in-charge Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Miles confirmed that the boy had previously been dealt with by police under provisions of the Youth Justice Act.
The Courier-Mail understands that the boy was on bail at the time of the crash, but Det Snr Sgt Miles could not confirm that.
Flowers, handwritten notes and balloons were laid at the crash site yesterday where mourners flocked to pay their respects throughout the day.
Pieces of shattered glass, tyre tracks and stains of blood were still evident at the scene as peak-hour traffic darted by.
Multiple family and friends paid tribute to the children, with some reportedly of Palm Island heritage.
A handwritten message to Lucius, the youngest of the victims, described him as always being there for his friends. "You are in God's hands now," it read.
Parents of the eldest victim, Aaliyah, have set up a fundraiser for her funeral which has surpassed $4000.
Palm Island mayor Mislam Sam said the "deeply upsetting" tragedy should not be politicised and families of the four children should "be allowed to grieve" without ugly social backlash. "The time for us to tackle this problem as a community is later," he said.
He urged people to be respectful of the victims and families of the tragedy, saying "ignorance will always be the enemy of humanity".
But indigenous elder Uncle Rusty Butler said that the community and government needed to take action against youth crime now.
"I feel empty … because you know they should never have died," he said.
"We had the chance to save these kids … we need to deal with this because it's not going to get better from here."
Respected indigenous mentor Wayne Parker Sr said that Townsville's MPs should "hang their head in shame" and State Government's promises were "too little, too late".
Mr Butler and Mr Parker are well-known for their work in the YINDA Program, which took displaced children out to country and taught them cultural values, as well as drove around the city at night picking up wandering children to keep them safe.
Mr Butler said these deaths could have been prevented if the program was still running at its potential since funding stopped in October.
The State Government recently closed tenders to a new on-country program to be running by next month.
Bond University professor and former detective Terry Goldsworthy said authorities needed to question how youths first began stealing cars and who they were associating with.
Elders should have greater involvement with indigenous youth and a multi-agency response, rather than just police or another department, was needed.
"You can't just keep locking up young kids, you just turn them into hardened criminals, what you need to do is try to divert them before ever begin offending," Dr Goldsworthy said.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer yesterday refused to answer questions about the children killed in Sunday's fatal crash after News Corprevealed some of the children were reportedly living in residential care homes.
She did not confirm what interaction the department may have had with the teenagers or whether their care arrangements were adequate.
She said losing a child "is every parent's worst fear" and the incident had left the Townsville community in shock and in search of answers but, out of respect for the grieving families, "now is not the time to be playing politics".
"The protection and care of vulnerable children is everybody's responsibility - we all need to step up and play a part," she said.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington yesterday said the death of the four youths was another "stark reminder of the youth crime crisis in Townsville".
"It's been almost three months since the Palaszczuk Labor Government promised to scrap their catch and release youth bail laws and they haven't done a thing," she said.
"Labor are all talk and no action when it comes to fixing the youth crime crisis in North Queensland.
"The LNP will put community safety first and give our police tougher laws and more police resources to keep the community safe."
LNP Townsville candidate John Hathaway criticised the State Government's approach to youth crime and added this scene was "too frequent and too familiar".
"Labor have had five years to address this issue and yet have systemically failed to do so," Mr Hathaway said.
Townsville MP Scott Stewart said the shocking deaths should not be turned into "political point scoring".
"As a government we've been listening to our community, looking at as many different ways as possible to address youth crime," Mr Stewart said.
Originally published as Calls for action after teens killed in crash