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Bourke, NSW: How cops were shocked to discover a five-year-old among young criminals wanted for a break-and-enter in bush town

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A kindergarten-aged child was allegedly one of three young boys who broke into a home in north-western NSW while the owner was sleeping to steal her car keys. 

‘In Bourke … we had a five-year-old child with two 12-year-old children breaking into a property and stealing a car,’ Paul Pisanos, deputy commissioner of regional field operations for NSW Police, alleged.

‘I’ve never in 30 years of the police service seen anything like that.’

Police confirmed to Daily Mail Australia they will allege the three boys entered the woman’s home about 2am last Friday and stole the woman’s Mitsubishi Outlander.

The homeowner woke up to the noise of the intruders as they fled and police later spotted the vehicle in town and tried to pull it over, sparking a brief pursuit that was called off when cops realised the age of the occupants, police allege. 

A five-year-old boy was allegedly among a group who broke into a home and stole a car in the Outback NSW town of Bourke (pictured)

A five-year-old boy was allegedly among a group who broke into a home and stole a car in the Outback NSW town of Bourke (pictured)

NSW Police's Paul Pisanos

Bourke's solitary police station

NSW Police’s Paul Pisanos (left), who has a 30-year police career, said he was shocked over the alleged incident (right is Bourke’s solitary police station)

Police are yet to find the group and the investigation is ongoing with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice also reportedly involved over concerns about the boys’ welfare.

The alleged incident is far from isolated with regional towns across Australia, particularly those in the Outback, seemingly awash with reports of youth crime, including break-ins, car thefts, ram raids and vandalism.

In Alice Springs a two-week youth curfew was imposed this week as the town grapples with a crime wave. 

House break-ins in the town are up 260 per cent since 2016 and commercial break-ins up 164 per cent over the same period. 

Reports from Alice Springs say children as young as eight or nine can be seen regularly wandering the streets after midnight.

This is nothing new – reports from Bourke a decade ago describe children as young as six wandering the streets late at night. 

Michael Liddle, an Alyawarre man who has lived his whole life in Central Australia, told the NT News in January the scenes in Alice Springs at night had counterparts that were equally common in the day

‘You have a long line at Centrelink, a long line at the banks and a long line at the pubs.

‘There has to be a connection there. There’s not a long line at the schools (at drop off and pick up times).’

Car thefts leading to wrecks are a common sight on the streets of Outback town Alice Springs

Car thefts leading to wrecks are a common sight on the streets of Outback town Alice Springs

Alice Springs locals say youths are constantly roaming the town

A stolen car is car wreck on the streets of Alice Springs

In Alice Springs further west of Bourke, locals say youths are constantly roaming the streets and going on joyrides

In Moree in northern NSW, Senior Constable David John Henderson was in court this month over a dramatic arrest of a group of teens, some as young as 13, who had stolen a car for a joyride, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The car was estimated to reach highway speeds up to 200km/h before police used spikes to bring it to a halt.

Police body-worn camera footage played to court showed officers holding the boys face down on the asphalt as they scolded with comments like ‘You ‘f***ing little arseholes’ and ‘How old are you, you little f***wit?’

One of the boys alleged they were left with a bleeding lip and black eye, though Snr Const Henderson was acquitted of an assault charge after his lawyers argued his actions in the heat of the arrest should not be judged by hindsight. 

In Alice Springs police are sending an additional 58 officers to the town to patrol during the 6pm to 6am youth curfew, though there will be no penalty if it is broken.

The children will simply be returned to their home or a similar safe place, police said.

According to Marion Scrymgour, federal member for Lingiari that incorporates the central Australian town, that method might be the problem.

‘We’ve got to stop pussyfooting around here and thinking that these kids are being taken home to a responsible adult because in a lot of these cases there isn’t a responsible adult there,’ she said in February.

Ms Scrymgour said she had concerns if the problem isn’t controlled it is a matter of time before one of them gets seriously hurt.

Labor MP Marion Scrymgour said authorities need to stop 'pussy-footing' around and crack down on youth crime

Labor MP Marion Scrymgour said authorities need to stop ‘pussy-footing’ around and crack down on youth crime

Under changes to Northern Territory law in 2022, the criminal age of responsibility was raised from 10 to 12, with then Chief Minister Natasha Fyles saying ‘primary school-aged kids … are not hardened criminals who need to be locked away’.

Ms Scrymgour said while she didn’t necessarily disagree with the change it was clear that it hadn’t made an improvement. 

She said a wider review of the effectiveness of the Youth Justice Act, under consideration by Labor, should be a priority that needs to be done within the year. 

‘I’m not left and I’m not woke, I just think we’ve got to hurry up and stop thinking that all of these measures are working, because they’re not.’

THREE STEPS TO ADDRESS OUTBACK YOUTH CRIME PROBLEM 

Indigenous MP Marion Scrymgour has outlined three ways authorities could take action to tackle the youth crime issue. 

1. ‘We can target young people but if we don’t make families accountable then we’re putting a Band-Aid on the situation and the Band-Aid will fall off.’

2.  ‘Labor is talking about a review of the Youth Justice Act, there are some critical areas in the Youth Justice Act which can be done now … it doesn’t need to be put off for 12 months.’

3. ‘We need to help them become productive members of society … This response needs to be led by traditional owners, who need to show leadership on this.’



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