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Townsville's youth crime surge - residents told 'hide the car keys'

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Townsville police are bolstering their numbers during peak times and urging residents to hide their keys as authorities grapple with a troubling spike in youth crime across the city.

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In the past week, 32 cars have been stolen and police have received reports of about 140 break-ins and attempted break-ins.

Inspector Damian Irvine said most of the crimes were being committed by a “very small group of recidivist juvenile offenders”.

He said the teenagers had started targeting apartment blocks and had broken into units at Cranbrook retirement village over the weekend.

“There was one elderly gentleman, they stole his insulin and then walked outside and realised it was of no value to them, so they smashed it on the ground,” Irvine said.

“We’re dealing with kids who have absolutely no respect for anyone or anything.”

Police have charged a 13-year-old girl with stabbing a shopping centre security guard with a pair of scissors after allegedly being caught shoplifting on Sunday night.

The female guard suffered superficial wounds to her face, arms and hand.

While Townsville had been struggling with the amount of youth crime in recent years, Inspector Irvine said the week’s offending had been significantly higher than normal.

“The local police, we’re doing the best we can with the numbers we’ve got — it’s the actual offences that are hurting us at the moment,” Irvine said.

“We’re currently analysing what the crime is, where it’s happening, and realigning our rosters and staffing to try and bolster our numbers at the peak periods.”

The entrance to a suburban supermarket
A 13-year-old girl was charged after a security guard at this IGA store was stabbed. (Photo: ABC News: Lily Nothling)

An ongoing Townsville police campaign targeting property crime — Operation Romeo Seville — has resulted in 327 people being charged with 1,247 offences since October.

Kirwan resident Stanley Thorley, 82, told the ABC he has been living in fear since his home was robbed in 2018 while he sat on his couch.

The intruders, who Thorley believes were teenagers, broke in through his back door and stole his wallet, keys and car.

“I’ve had a triple bypass … if they’d have punched me in the chest, they would’ve killed me,” he said.

Thorley said the recent spike in property crime made him worried about becoming a target again.

“Even now, you have to have the house completely locked up all day — you can’t leave a door open, they’ll come straight in,” he said.

“That’s what worries [my neighbours and I] — we’re at their mercy.

Irvine urged local residents to start hiding their car keys in the afternoon, ahead of peak crime time overnight.

“Some of these juveniles have been arrested multiple times since Operation Seville has commenced, and have reoffended over and over and over again,” he said.

“The majority of these break-ins are being done for one reason and one reason only, and that is to secure a car to joyride around town in.

“Reality is, right now, we need to hide our keys — it might help us try to get on top of the rut we’re in at the moment.”

-ABC

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