Burglaries double in Halls Creek as ‘lawlessness’ grips remote West Australian town
A police vehicle in Halls Creek had its tyres slashed while officers responded to a burglary. (Supplied)
Residents in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek say crime is out of control after a group of young people slashed the tyres of a police car while officers attended one of many recent burglaries.
- Burglaries in Halls Creek have more than doubled from last year
- Residents have described scenes of “lawlessness”, with kids tormenting authorities
- Police are planning to increase resources in the town to tackle crime
A photo of the damage, obtained by the ABC, shows the vehicle in a local mechanics’ yard, waiting to be fixed.
Western Australia Police Superintendent for the Kimberley Allan Adams confirmed the incident occurred early last month.
“Police had been advised [of the burglary] and they went to it, they were inside the building when rocks started getting thrown at the building, there was a number of kids outside doing that,” he said.
Mr Adams said the police on the scene then called the officer in charge of the local Halls Creek station.
“[The officer in charge] rang one of his key community contacts who is a dad, who jumped in the police van with him, I think it was about three o’clock in the morning,” he said.
“They went to the scene, the dad got out, yelled out — the kids stopped instantly.”
One Halls Creek resident, who did not want to be named to protect his relationship with the community, said the tyre slashing was just one of a number of examples of “lawlessness” in the town.
He said bins were regularly on fire at the local oval, his premises were being broken into nightly, and children frequently threw rocks at him — most recently while he ate dinner at a local motel.
“It’s like Syria … it feels like a war zone,” he said.
“They [the children] literally torment the police.”
‘I can’t go to sleep for a while’
Trish McKay, an Aboriginal woman originally from Mullewa in WA’s Mid West, described being too terrified to sleep after break-ins at her home and her hardware business.
“When I go to bed I can’t go to sleep for a while and I wake up during the night just to hear a small noise, and I’m wide awake straight away thinking someone’s breaking in,” she said.
“They’ve broken in to the hardware [store] a couple of times and stolen equipment like bolt cutters and stuff like that, which they’ve then used it to break in to other places.
“We’ve lived in town itself since ’93 and you didn’t really hear a lot about a lot of the crime that happened but now it’s just about every night.”
Ms McKay also said rocks were being thrown at truck drivers — a problem reported earlier this year in nearby Fitzroy Crossing.
“When the trucks come through they have to slow down of course in the town and there’s kids out there at night and they start throwing rocks at the trucks … and it’s the trucks that bring most of the freight to Halls Creek, all the foodstuffs and everything.”
Ms McKay fears other residents may be about to take matters into their own hands.
“Well they’re talking if they catch these kids they’re going to belt them,” she said.
She wants WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson to visit the town.
“To come up and have a good look and maybe boost the numbers of the officers to try and … do something with these kids.”
Superintendent Adams confirmed that the number of burglaries in Halls Creek, a town of 1,500 people, had more than doubled this year.
He said there had been 257 burglaries in 2018 compared to 95 in 2017.
He said the number of children taken into custody had also increased, with 112 juvenile arrests recorded so far in 2018, compared to 41 the year before.
WA Police Kimberley District Superintendent Allan Adams hopes to bring in more officers to crack down on crime. (ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith)
Need for juvenile justice centre
Superintendent Adams said he was of the firm belief that locking Halls Creek children up was not deterring them from crime. He said he planned to divert two of the local police station’s 15 officers to youth intervention roles on Monday.
“Because if you continue to chase the kids they’ll continue to run,” he said.
“Instead of running from us, if we can do some stuff that gets them to run towards us, we think that’s a better way of dealing with the problem than just locking them up and putting them into Banksia Hill [Detention Centre] where the evidence suggests that we’re not going to see improved community safety.
“We hear a lot of kids talking about [how] they like Banksia Hill.”
Superintendent Adams said one theory as to why juvenile crime across the Kimberley had risen this year was that younger children had begun idolising other juveniles who had returned from Banksia Hill Detention Centre and were trying to replicate their behaviour.
He said there was no simple solution to the complex problems facing Halls Creek, and while he was focused on deterrence, the latest crime statistics did underline the need for a juvenile justice centre in the Kimberley — where children could be detained closer to their families instead of 3,000 kilometres away in Perth.
Banksia Hill is WA’s only juvenile justice centre.
More officers to curb crime
Superintendent Adams also foreshadowed bringing more officers into Halls Creek in the new year, in a similar fashion to what has recently been done in Kununurra to combat juvenile crime.
“Now bringing 10 police officers into the Kimberley is a relatively expensive proposition,” he said.
“But definitely Halls Creek in the new year, I’m really hopeful that we can put a similar style operation together to allow the crew at Halls Creek to get on top.”
He said at its core, Halls Creek’s juvenile crime problem stemmed from young people not feeling safe at home, walking the streets and acting out.
“A lot of those burglaries are targeting food,” he said.
Superintendent Adams said non-policing solutions were also needed and applauded a community member’s suggestion to turn the lights on at the local football oval after dark, a move which had recently been adopted with success.
“Some of these small towns across the Kimberley don’t have abundant service providers, they have a lot of really good people doing their best,” he said.
The lights of the local football oval are being switched on at night to allow children to play. (Supplied)