Boost in battle to pull youths back from brink of crime
THE battle to pull youths back from the brink of lives of crime has been boosted by the introduction of a fresh face ready to rehabilitate.
Highly qualified youth and social worker Krystle Brady is set to become a conduit between police, community services and at-risk youths in the region, as part of a new initiative 12 months in the making.
Ms Brady, an IFYS youth worker with the Youth At Risk Network, will be embedded with the Sunshine Coast Child Protection and Investigation Unit, as part of a new program aimed at intervening with youths police identify as being on a path to becoming career criminals.
"I think it's a really important role," Ms Brady said.
She said the goal was to prevent young people "falling through the cracks" through an early intervention program, which included supported bail checks and a focus on connecting youths with services they, or their families, needed.
Ms Brady said the program would focus on youngsters "beginning to come into contact with police" and some on bail, in a bid to curb the offending before it escalated into recidivism.
Ms Brady had spent most of the past decade working in youth homelessness and would be based in the CPIU office, heading out with the team three nights a week and also spending one day a week in Children's Court.
"It'll be really good to see how it evolves and what kind of outcomes we can get for young people," Ms Brady said.
Sunshine Coast Crime Group officer-in-charge, detective Inspector Dave Drinnen said the program was a joint initiative between Coast police and IFYS, with CPIU boss detective Senior Sergeant Phil Hurst one of the driving forces behind it.
The program was understood to be aimed initially at the 12-16 years age bracket, but that could vary depending on circumstances and if earlier intervention was needed.
Insp Drinnen said the co-responder model would look for opportunities for behavioural change, and hopefully ease pressure on frontline staff as well.
He said police would refer youths they identified as potential candidates for the program and Ms Brady would follow up, linking them to other support services.
Insp Drinnen said the model enabled the youth worker to take a "preventive approach" with high-risk or on-bail youths, rather than an enforcement model.
He said it may change some approaches taken by police, and if the model proved a success, it could be expanded.
Insp Drinnen said he was "excited about the opportunities" the program would give to try and turn young lives around, and away from crime.
He said more than 70 per cent of children they came into contact with didn't reoffend after cautioning and it was a "small percentage of recidivist youth offenders" responsible for the bulk of offending.
"Here's an opportunity to look at people that are starting down that path," Insp Drinnen said.
Former child protection detective and current Opposition police spokesman, Ninderry MP Dan Purdie, praised the initiative.
He said there were not many programs available to divert children from the youth justice system at present, and research showed once youths entered the system, it was extremely hard to bring them back out.
He said the program would relieve pressure on the criminal justice system, as it focused on the "short window of time" when youths first came to the attention of police.
"Putting more resources into the kids early … it really is imperative," Mr Purdie said.
"It's really hard to pull them back once they're in the system."