Police Citizens Youth Club proposed for Queanbeyan

Canberra PCYC executive manager Cheryl O'Donnell and general manager Steve Imrie want to bring the PCYC service to Queanbeyan. Photo: Elliot Williams
Canberra PCYC executive manager Cheryl O'Donnell and general manager Steve Imrie want to bring the PCYC service to Queanbeyan. Photo: Elliot Williams

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council are considering options for a Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) to be established in Queanbeyan following renewed calls to target youth crime.

The council decided to request a report from NSW Police regarding a potential centre and how it would operate.

Young offenders in Queanbeyan are prosecuted in court at a rate more than double that of the whole of NSW, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

In the 2016/17 financial year people aged 10 to 17 represented 13.6 per cent of all people prosecuted in court in Queanbeyan by NSW Police.

Queanbeyan Magistrate Michael Antrum would welcome a PCYC and said early intervention with at-risk youth is critical. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Queanbeyan Magistrate Michael Antrum would welcome a PCYC and said early intervention with at-risk youth is critical. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Across the whole of NSW in the same period 10 to 17-year-olds represented 6.9 per cent of those in court.

NSW Police were also able to pursue alternative remedies other than court in 6.6 per cent of cases statewide with offenders aged 10 to 17. In Queanbeyan alternative remedies were utilised in 4.1 percent of cases.

Alternatives to prosecution in court include youth conferences, official warnings, infringement notices and more.

The NSW government is currently conducting an inquiry into the adequacy of youth diversionary programs in the state which is expected to report findings next year.

Despite the statistics, Magistrate Michael Antrum said he does not believe Queanbeyan has a problem with youth crime worse than any other jurisdiction.

“I don’t think it’s a particular problem in Queanbeyan but having said that having any child in the criminal justice system is a problem full stop,” Magistrate Antrum said.

“Every time we get a young person before the court we have to be on our game and recognise what is going wrong in this person’s life.”

Magistrate Antrum said he had seen great success through the PCYC and other similar youth programs around the state. He highlighted the sports and physical activity element as particularly useful in tackling youth justice issues as they instilled a sense of discipline and routine.

The idea to bring a PCYC to Queanbeyan was sparked by general manager of the Canberra PCYC Steve Imrie, someone who has called Queanbeyan home his whole life.

He said he can see a need in the community for more engagement with at-risk youth and said he had also received in-principle support from Queanbeyan police.

“I can see how it’s benefited kids in Canberra and I fully believe in what we do,” Mr Imrie said.

“I know that our programs work.”

Mr Imrie said in the past year the Canberra centre had six young people from Queanbeyan in crime diversion programs and many more participating in activities hosted at the centre. He said having a specific Queanbeyan PCYC would not only open the service up to more young people but increase the efficacy of their programs.

“We know we get the best outcomes when we can put them through an intensive program and support them in that way and get to the bottom of what is driving their offending behaviour,” he said.

Working to restore family relationships, engaging young people with education and connecting them with employment and removing risk factors such as drugs and alcohol are key tenets of the PCYC system.

Magistrate Antrum said he would welcome any service seeking to divert young people from the criminal justice system.

“It’s very old-fashioned to say it takes a village to raise a child, but ultimately the court can’t be carrying the burden alone,” he said.

“Neither can the police or juvenile justice. It really does need a broad brush approach.”

Mr Imrie said the next steps would require securing council support before approaching PCYC NSW for permission to set up a new facility. He said in the interim the Canberra staff were keen to conduct some programs specifically for youth in Queanbeyan across the border.