Drug crimes rising among youth in Gladstone region

DRUG crimes among youths have skyrocketed in the Gladstone region.

Justice Department figures from Gladstone and Biloela courts reveal 58 were sentenced in 2013-14 compared to 47 in the previous financial year.

Three people aged 21 and under were sentenced to prison or detention in the 2012-13 financial year compared to 16 in 2013-14.

Australian Institute of Criminology senior criminologist Matthew Willis said drug use was more common in areas on major interstate transport routes.

He explained drug supply was not necessarily too different to other operations in that those in charge looked at logistics.

Mr Willis said in some areas young women were more involved in drug use.

He said the areas with the highest rates of youth offending were those with higher levels of youth employment.

Socio-economic disadvantage, socio-marginalisation, learning deficits and mental health problems were some of the main causes behind youths committing offences, Mr Willis said.

His comments that young men were overall more prone to violent crimes was mirrored in the statistics.

While Mr Willis also said females were more likely to commit fraud-related crimes, no females were sentenced for fraud in either year.

In 2012-13, men in both Biloela and Gladstone were sentenced for an uncommon crime among youths in regional areas - abduction and harassment-related offences.

But just because a young person breaks the law once does not mean they will turn to a life of crime.

In fact, Mr Willis said only a small group went on to commit more offences.

"Young people tend to do stupid things," he said. "It's part of the process of maturing."

Mr Willis said there was an "age crime curve", with those aged from 15 to their mid-20s committing the highest number of offences while they matured "emotionally and cognitively".

He said there was also a huge over-representation of indigenous Australians to be found in prisons and detention centres.

Mr Willis said some of the best ways to divert young offenders away from committing crimes was through restorative conferencing, cautions and community-based orders.


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