‘More police doesn’t build trust’: concern over proposal to tackle crime in Alice Springs

A decision to send extra police officers to Alice Springs to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour in the central Australian town is being met with concern by some community groups.

Northern Territory police have deployed 40 extra officers into Alice Springs to support local officers in combating crime and antisocial behaviour.

Related: NT federal Labor MP says families need to be more accountable for youth crime

In a media statement, police commissioner Jamie Chalker said crime levels in the town are deeply concerning. Chalker cited recent incidents in which allegedly stolen cars were driven dangerously, with one allegedly trying to ram a police vehicle.

“The conduct of these offenders is reprehensible” he said. “It places the lives of residents and my officers at risk. That is completely unacceptable.

“This behaviour will be stamped out.”

Alice Springs great-grandmother Doreen Carroll Nungurla said increasing police presence in the town will not address the underlying causes of crime and antisocial behaviour.

“It’s failed before and it will fail again, they need to look at solutions in a deeper way,” the western Arrente woman said.

“What are 40 police gonna do? Find a solution that isn’t just arresting kids. They need a safe place, and if the family is not safe then kids are gonna get into trouble.”

Chalker said the authorities are working with the local community, including Aboriginal liaison officers, to improve relationships and prevent criminal behaviour.

“Our community resilience and engagement command and the Aboriginal liaison officers have been working tirelessly in their community to build relationships and try to prevent some of the behaviour that has been afflicting Alice Springs.”

Carroll, who is part of the Strong Grandmothers group in central Australia, said grandmothers and other elders want to work with the government and authorities to address the problems.

She said she and other grandmothers used to patrol the streets of Alice Springs speaking with children and young people that were out late at night, but had to stop due to their age.

“We are all in our 70s and 60s now, what we were trying to do is not a solution. We usually sit back and try and organise things.”

She wanted problem streets or areas to be cordoned off, and for Aboriginal youth workers to talk to the young people at risk of getting into trouble and steer them towards activities or after-dark programs.

Related: Alice Springs elders fear NT’s youth crime plan could create new stolen generation

Maree Corbo, Manager of Tangentyere’s Community Safety Division in Alice Springs, said the issue is complex, and required dealing with multiple traumas and challenging home environments.

“Family violence, overcrowded houses and a whole lot of systemic issues are impacting on families and these kids … It’s so much deeper than just having naughty kids,” Carbo said.

She said children at risk are getting younger and that punitive approaches are failing.

“More police doesn’t build trust.

“Any 10-year-old, any eight-year-old doesn’t really know how to make good choices. We need to work collaboratively to be able to support these kids.”