A senior police officer revealed the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been charged with 57 offences since October last year in a pattern of “escalating” offending.
Police had repeatedly opposed bail in the Children’s Court but the child was released back into the community each time, he said.
The officer said one of the boy’s previous offences included holding a person to ransom with a screwdriver.
Townsville store owner Max Kingsley, 67, chased the boy from the premises with a wooden stick on Sunday night after he was allegedly threatened with a 30cm knife.
“I’ve never seen a kid run so fast — he ran like a scared rabbit,” Kingsley said.
The boy was arrested hours later with two other teenagers when police intercepted the stolen car they were driving.
Police said the boy was remanded in custody after facing the Children’s Court on attempted armed robbery, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, and burglary charges.
He will face court again next week.
‘Out of control’: youth laws criticised
Police and residents have said they were frustrated by juveniles being released on bail and have called for tougher punishments.
Over the past few months, locals have taken to the streets to protest and held a community forum.
Kingsley said the city’s youth crime problem was a “runaway train” and the public was fed up.
“It has to be derailed before it crashes into Townsville and destroys it, and it will because it’s out of control,” Kingsley said.
“They’ve got to change the law to make the punishment fit the crime.”
Townsville solicitors said changes to youth justice laws, which came into effect in December, had made it easier for children to get bail.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said bail could be refused by the court if the child was an unacceptable risk to community safety.
“For example, of the five young persons who appeared in Townsville Children’s Court [yesterday], four were not granted bail and remanded in custody,” she said.
In recent weeks, Police Minister Mark Ryan has said the courts “were not making the decisions to remand those high-risk youth recidivist offenders”.
He said he would explore whether police prosecutors could start appealing the decisions of magistrates.
The LNP Opposition deputy leader, Tim Mander, has called for breach of bail to be an offence.
“It’s no coincidence that when this State Government reversed that reform that we [LNP] brought in that youth crime has skyrocketed,” Mander said.
“The Labor members keep talking it up and talking tough but they do not back it up with action.”
Lance Rundle, lecturer in law at CQ University, said there was no silver bullet for tackling youth crime.
“If breach of bail was an offence, young people may still commit criminal offences,” Rundle said.
“To reduce youth crime you’ve got to get them involved in work, and engaging with their community and elders.”
The Department of Child Safety said more than 200 young people were in detention or on remand in Queensland.
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