EDITORIAL: Fighting juvenile crime

THERE has been a long-held community perception that the criminal activities of juveniles are insufficiently punished.

The balancing act between punishment and rehabilitation has also been a continuing  source of angst for many law enforcers and lawmakers across the Hunter and beyond.

So another tale of youths going on a crime spree, this time targeting a group of Lake Macquarie businesses, should come as little surprise.

Businesspeople such as restaurateur Claire Rampling deserve more support from authorities in their battle against the young criminals who have been targeting her  and her neighbours for the past three months.

As well as installing further security deterrences, Ms Rampling has actually caught one of the teenagers who had allegedly attempted to escape with cash from a tip jar.

The fact that the 13-year-old was later charged with another crime after initially being cautioned under the Young Offenders Act is testament to just how difficult a job the authorities have.

While youth services forever fight for funds, there is a collective responsibility to make sure every effort is made to bring troubled youngsters back onto the straight and narrow.

That responsibility must start at home.

And custody should remain the absolute last line of punishment.

But we must also acknowledge the problems small businesses across the Hunter continue to have with youth crime.

The obvious financial cost only adds to the immeasurable frustration when businesses see the same groups repeating similar crimes.

It has been the case many times across the Hunter that so-called petty crimes such as vandalism can lead to more serious robbery incidents if the troubled youngsters go unchecked.

To her credit, Ms Rampling has acknowledged that police have done as good a job as they can, citing a lack of resources as contributing to the issue.

To this point, it is an accurate assessment that this is not just a police problem, but a community problem needing community solutions.

There needs to be an identification of the factors that are contributing to these crimes being committed.

However, there also needs to be continuous scrutiny of laws relating to juveniles and the procedures involved in dealing with young people who commit crimes.

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