Karratha community members air crime concerns

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Pilbara District Police Acting Superintendent Neville Dockery speaking at the community crime meeting.
Camera IconPilbara District Police Acting Superintendent Neville Dockery speaking at the community crime meeting. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Residents aired serious concerns about a perceived rise in the level of crime in the City of Karratha area at a wide-ranging and often heated community meeting last Tuesday night.

About 100 residents gathered at the Karratha Leisureplex for what organisers the Karratha City Ratepayers and Residents Association called an emergency crime meeting, to discuss with police, local government and State Government the dominant trend of property crime committed by juveniles.

Emotions ran high at times as audience members and speakers recounted being burgled or robbed — one as recently as the previous day — and several attendees said public anger was reaching a point where they believed there was a risk of vigilante action.

Private security patrols, funding for more police officers and council rebates on home security equipment were all high on the list of ideas for solutions.

KCRRA president Dani Hage said the association was especially concerned about an apparent escalation in the brazenness of offenders.

“I called the meeting because of the spike in crime that I could see, just personally – friends that have been broken into and seeing the social media reports.”

“We’ve gone from just opportunistic crimes to ‘I’m kicking in a door now’, or ‘I’m going to feed the dog so he doesn’t bark at me’, and those sorts of things are happening,” she said.

“(This meeting was about) raising people’s awareness and getting people together and showing the City that we care and we are concerned.”

Pilbara District police Acting Superintendent Neville Dockery said police statistics showed the number of property crime incidents in recent months was about the same as last year, other than a spike in August caused by one group of young people, and did not reflect the view crime was rising.

However, he said juvenile crime, the most common in Karratha, was particularly complex to address, with most of it stemming from dysfunctional family life, and required more work.

“There is (a) lack of effective intervention programs and services for youth from dysfunctional homes to deter them from offending,” he said.

“This includes appropriate sentencing options for the Children's Court to impose that can educate and divert these kids.”

“Police are working together with partner agencies to provide solutions around the dysfunctional families, however more intervention programs and activities for kids, during the day and into the early evenings, will always help.”

He said residents could help police cut crime by keeping their homes and property secure.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said there were “no easy solutions” to addressing local crime and doing so would require a holistic approach from multiple organisations and the wider community.

“When the whole family structure is broken down it’s just so difficult, and that’s why we need to all work together — housing, child protection, police, the City,” he said.

“You can see there was a lot of anger there tonight, and I don’t mind that — it’s good for that to come out and (for us) to get some ideas — but the idea of working together, and reporting the crimes, has got to have some effect.”

Asked if people’s concerns were more due to perception, especially from social media, than reality, Ms Hage said the statistics could only be confidently relied on when all crime incidents were reported to police, which was not currently happening.

Ms Hage said the meeting had been a starting point and the next step would be for the KCRRA to review suggested strategies for possible further action.

Other speakers at the meeting were Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel, Department of Communities Pilbara housing division regional manager Melanie Croke, Wilson Security North West regional manager Peter Halpin and Six Star Electrical operations manager James Corea.

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