Young Queenslanders are turning deadly behaviour into entertainment on social media and inspiring others to do the same, the state’s new youth crime boss has warned.
In her first sit down interview since taking on the job, Assistant Commissioner Cheryl Scanlon told NCA NewsWire one of her biggest frustrations was seeing juveniles sharing footage of themselves committing crimes.
“What they’re doing is committing criminal offences,” she said. “It’s dangerous, and people lose their lives through that.
“So it’s a serious issue when people make light of that, or they use social media to broadcast that as some sort of badge of honour that effectively becomes evidence.”
AC Scanlon said she had seen first hand how offenders bragging about potentially deadly high-speed car theft could act as a major and motivating factor to other young people to commit crime.
The 33-year veteran has been tasked with suppressing the devastating impact of the reckless reoffending of a 400-strong juvenile cohort Police Minister Mark Ryan described as “hard-nuts”.
On the same day Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed the assistant commissioner’s appointment to bipartisan applause, a suite of tough reforms was announced to satisfy growing fury following a horrific spate of tragic deaths.
The measures, now introduced into state parliament, include a plan to slap GPS tracking devices on repeat young offenders as well as harsher bail conditions.
AC Scanlon’s experience working in child protection will help her provide a sensitive approach to the underlying causes of youth offending, while she says her previous position as the state’s anti-terror boss will also be crucial.
Treating violent extremists and kids with the same thick brushstroke may seem heavy handed, but she insists the approach is more aligned with nurturing a youth out of a life of crime.
“When you work in counter-terrorism you work in the prevention and disruption space all the time because what you don‘t want is to have an event,” she said.
“Prevention and disruption is very much part of our business every single day, and that includes young people who might be radicalising or going down that track.”
AC Scanlon said this same strategy can be applied across the policing sphere.
“I understand very well the system and what happens for young people who come out of very complex families where perhaps there’s alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, they’ve been disengaged from schooling — all those things have been part of my working life,” she said.
The assistant commissioner was appointed into the role to absorb community consultation and report directly to a youth justice cabinet committee in a position created following the heartbreak of the Alexandra Hills tragedy, when a pregnant couple and their dog were struck and killed by a stolen Land Cruiser allegedly driven by a youth.
AC Scanlon deflected questions attempting to draw a response about the horrific incident, instead explaining officers carry endless tragedies with them, including the death of 22-year-old Jennifer Board who was killed recently in Townsville during an alleged vigilante chase of teens in a suspected stolen vehicle.
“There are always tragedies but some of the good news is when you see a young person who has come to your notice, they’ve come into the system then go out the other side and they go on to live really productive lives,” she said.