March 31 - April 6, 2024: Issue 620


NSW Police's Strike Force Sweetenham Targets Car theft - Break & Enter Crimes: New bail laws passed to prevent youth crime - NSW Parliamentary inquiry into drivers of youth crime since covid opened + How to Protect your home

Residents continue to report the theft of vehicles from driveways and garages along with incidences of break and enter to homes, usually in the hours after 1am.

About 3.00am on Saturday 9 March 2024, officers from North Shore Police Area Command sighted a red Hyundai I30 sedan on Condamine Street, Manly Vale.

Police attempted to stop the vehicle; however, when it failed to stop as directed, a pursuit was initiated.

The pursuit continued through Frenchs Forest and Allambie Heights, before police found the vehicle dumped in Forestville Avenue, Forestville.

Police allege the driver and four passengers ran from the vehicle, before hiding in nearby front gardens and bushland.

With the assistance of the dog squad, five teenagers – three boys and two girls, ages ranging between 13 and 16 – were arrested.

They were taken to Manly Police Station where they were charged by officers from Strike Force Sweetenham with a number of offences arising from the pursuit.

Inquiries reveal the car had been allegedly stolen during an aggravated break and enter at Ramsgate earlier in the night.

A 16-year-old girl was charged with three offences – police pursuit – not stop - drive recklessly, steal motor vehicle and aggravated break and enter in company.

A 13-year-old girl was charged with three offences – aggravated break and enter in company, steal motor vehicle and be carried in a conveyance taken without consent of owner.

A 13-year-old boy was charged with three offences – aggravated break and enter in company, steal motor vehicle and be carried in a conveyance taken without consent of owner.

A 15-year-old boy was charged with being carried in a conveyance taken without consent of owner.

A 14-year-old boy was charged with being carried in a conveyance taken without consent of owner.

Police will allege in Court all five teenagers were on bail at the time of being arrested.

They were all refused bail to appear before a children’s court on Sunday 10 March 2023.

On March 28 a vehicle was stolen from behind a security gate at north Avalon and caught in St Ives by NSW Police.

The thieves had broken into the home just before 2am. Two other vehicles, one apparently known to police, the other stolen 2 nights beforehand, followed the stolen car and had awakened other neighbours. Others on the same street had had their cars ransacked and any wallets and cards stolen.

A western suburbs address had been entered into the navigation system.

Another equally expensive vehicle was stolen from Bilgola Plateau in 2023.

In April 2022 two teenagers were allegedly spotted by police cruising through the northern beaches in a stolen ute before taking off on foot. A 17-year-old girl was arrested, but the 16-year-old boy drove off in a BMW stolen earlier that night. The BMW crashed through a storefront window at Seaforth before the boy was arrested and charged with multiple offences, including drug offences.

BOSCAR figures record over the most recent 12 months, January 2023 to December 2023, there have been 171 thefts of vehicles on the northern beaches, just over 14 each month or around 3 to 4 each week.

Strike Force Sweetenham was set up in 2021 to target young people who were stealing high-performance cars.

This area is clearly being one of those being targeted, with the luxury vehicles, Land Rovers, Audis, Porsches, stolen allegedly then used as vehicles for other crimes.

Preventing a vehicle from being stolen

The NSW Police provide some simple steps to prevent vehicles being stolen:

Protect your car from being stolen

  • NEVER leave your keys in the ignition when not in your car; even in your driveway at home
  • ALWAYS keep your car’s doors and windows locked, including when driving
  • CONSIDER upgrading your car’s security with a quality alarm or for older vehicles an electronic immobiliser
  • NEVER leave your keys in plain view either at home or in public places such as restaurants. If people are breaking into your home to find keys near the front door or other 'usual areas', placing them elsewhere will help protect your belongings

Protect the property in your car

  • ALWAYS keep your doors and windows locked when out of your car
  • NEVER leave valuables such as mobile phones, handbags, GPS or spare change in plain view, even when parked at home
  • ALWAYS try to park in a well-lit or populated area
  • TRADIES, always lock your toolboxes and ute trays and try to avoid parking on the street at night.

Another NSW Police brochure provides tips on keeping your home safe.

New bail and performance crime laws passed to prevent youth crime

On March 22nd the NSW Government announced it has strengthened bail laws to help prevent repeat youth crime and introduced a new performance crime offence targeting those who advertise certain crimes on social media.

Parliament passed legislative changes on March 21 to amend the Bail Act 2013 to include a temporary additional bail test for young people between 14 and 18 charged with committing certain serious break and enter offences or motor vehicle theft offences while on bail for similar offences.

Under the change, a bail authority such as police, magistrates and judges will need to have a high degree of confidence that the young person will not commit a further serious indictable offence while on bail before granting bail.

The bail amendments are a temporary measure that will sunset after 12-months. The laws will be monitored and evaluated by the Department of Communities and Justice utilising the data and expertise of the Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

The government has also created a ‘performance crime’ offence in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) imposing an additional penalty of two years’ imprisonment for people who commit motor vehicle theft or break and enter offences and share material to advertise their involvement in the criminal behaviour.

It is expected these new provisions will come into effect within two weeks and will undergo a statutory review that will take place two years after it commences.

Earlier this month the government announced a $26.2 million package of reforms and initiatives to support community safety and wellbeing, particularly in regional NSW where crime rates remain higher than in metro areas, with a focus on enhancing early intervention and prevention programs for young people.

NSW Attorney General Michael Daley stated:

“This government listens to the people of New South Wales and is committed to meaningfully and comprehensively addressing problems and the concerns people have.

“These bail laws have been purposefully designed to address repeated alleged offending by young people aged between 14 and 18 who have been charged with serious break and enter, motor vehicle theft, while on bail for another offence of that type.

“The government is aware of concerns about tightening bail laws for young people and it has approached this change cautiously in light of the potentially serious consequences for young people and, in particular, Aboriginal young people.

“This is why the change is time limited and relates to young people who are already alleged to have committed at least one offence while on bail for another relevant offence.

“The new ‘post and boast’ offence targets performance crime – where offenders post footage of their law-breaking online – in connection with car crime and break and enter offences.

“This behaviour is unacceptable and has to stop. People have a right to sleep safe in their beds in the sanctity of their home and should not have to face being retraumatised, ridiculed and shamed with images of the crime being made into a warped kind of ‘entertainment’.

“These changes are the first part of this government’s significant and multifaceted response to regional crime.”

Statistics released by BOSCAR on March 14 2024 show while crime is higher in Regional NSW than in Sydney, it is not the case that crime is necessarily increasing. In Regional NSW most property crimes were considerably lower in 2023 compared to 2004.

The following offences, however, have increased significantly in regional NSW over the five years from 2019 to 2023. 

  • Motor vehicle theft – up 20% or 1,239 additional incidents
  • Domestic assault – up 24% or 3,284 additional incidents
  • Non-domestic assault – up 14% or 1,825 additional incidents
  • Sexual assault – up 47% or 1,505 additional incidents 

In 2023, rates of the following major crimes in Regional NSW were either lower than, or equivalent to, 2019: break and enter dwelling (down 17%), break and enter non-dwelling (down 12%), steal from motor vehicle (down 16%), steal from dwelling (down 27%), steal from person (down 27%), other theft (down 30%), retail theft (stable), sexual touching (down 6%), and robbery (down 5%).

Trends in Major Crime Categories to December 2023, NSW

At the state level, in the five years to December 2023, two of the 13 major offence categories showed a significant upward trend, six showed downward trends, and five were stable. The two offences trending upwards in the five years to December 2023 were: 

  • Domestic violence assault (up 3.6% per year on average)
  • Sexual assault (up 10.1% per year on average) 

In 2023 the following six major offences were significantly lower than in 2019: murder, robbery, break and enter-dwelling, steal from motor vehicle, other stealing offences, and malicious damage to property. 

Number of people on remand awaiting trial in NSW hits record high 

A Thursday 8 February 2024  release from states new figures released  by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) show the number of adults on remand in NSW reached the highest point on record in December 2023 at 5055 people.  Remandees are unsentenced and are in custody waiting for their court matter to be finalised. 

In contrast, the overall prison population is at its lowest point since late 2015. In December 2023 there were 12,091 adults in custody which is 1544 fewer than four years previous (down 11% since December 2019).  These changes are due to an increase in remandees alongside a larger fall in sentenced prisoners. In the four years to December 2023, the number of adults on remand increased by 416 people (up 9%) while the number of sentenced prisoners fell by 1960 people (down 22%).  

Commenting on the findings, BOCSAR Executive Director, Jackie Fitzgerald, said “More people than ever are in prison waiting for their day in court and accordingly, remandees now make up a greater proportion of the prison population than ever before. In December 2023, 42% of adults in prison were on remand, up from 34% in December 2019. On average people are currently spending an average of 90 days on remand.” 

The main offences driving the increase in the adult remand population are:  

  • domestic violence assault (up 201 or 33.2%)  
  • sexual offences (up 144 or 24.9%)  
  • non-domestic assault (up 71 or 10.6%)  
  • intimidation/stalking (up 62 or 29.8%) 
  • weapons offences (up 50 or 46.3%) 

The NSW Police Force's Youth Strategy 2023 - 2025 

The NSW Police Force has a strong commitment to building trust with young people while reducing crime, violence and fear of crime in the community. The NSW Police Force states it will continue to work towards diverting young people from the formal justice system and enhancing positive relationships between itself and the young people of NSW.

The Youth Strategy outlines the NSW Police Force intended approach to policing issues that relate to or impact young people between the ages of 10 – 17 years. 

In NSW, criminal responsibility legally commences at the age of 10. Under criminal law, a 'child' is defined as a person less than 18 years of age. Various aspects of criminal justice are administered in NSW by different government agencies including the NSW Police Force, the Department of Communities & Justice and Youth Justice NSW. These agencies work closely together to reduce re-offending among young people.

Police may divert eligible young offenders from court and detention through warnings, cautions or referral to a youth justice conference under the Young Offenders Act. The Act states that a formal caution or a Youth Justice Conference (YJC) can be prescribed for a young person if the young person has:

  • admitted the offence;
  • consented to a caution or YJC;
  • committed an offence for which a caution or YJC can be given;
  • and, is entitled to a caution or YJC.

The decision about entitlement is made with regards to the seriousness of the offence; the degree of violence; the harm caused to the victim; previous offence history, and any other matter the official thinks is appropriate.

The NSW Police Force Youth Strategy was recently launched and embraces three key priority areas—prevention, intervention and partnership. A number of priorities under these areas have been identified, including:

  • Preventing youth offending and re-offending
  • Protecting the vulnerable
  • Disrupting youth crime cycles through early intervention
  • Diversion
  • Strengthening youth and community engagement
  • Demonstrating strong commitment to agency collaboration, and
  • Enhancing internal capabilities.

Community safety in regional and rural communities Inquiry Opened: what are the root causes of youth crime?

Although the NSW Police Force has always had an active approach towards engaging with every subsequent generation that struggles in reaching adulthood through such institutions as the PCYCs, there have been calls for a few years mow to determine what is causing children and teenagers to commit these acts. 

On March 20 2023 the NSW Legislative Assembly's Committee on Law and Safety adopted a new inquiry into community safety in regional and rural communities. 

Committee Chair and MP for Mount Druitt, Mr Edmond Atalla, said the inquiry would investigate the drivers of youth crime in the regions and actions the NSW Government can take to improve community safety. 

Although this Inquiry needs to be extended to include metropolitan Sydney as there are children and teenagers struggling here as well, at least something is finally commenced.

"Every person deserves to feel safe in their community, regardless of where they live," Mr Atalla said.

"Over the past five years, NSW has experienced worrying increases in specific forms of regional crime, such as motor vehicle offences and break and enter offences."

"As well as looking at the root causes of youth crime, the inquiry will also examine the wraparound and diversionary services available for youth and families in the regions and rural areas. We will consider how the NSW Government can better match services to individuals and how these services can be measured, improved and coordinated to divert youth from crime."

"Throughout its work, the inquiry will have regard to the NSW Government's commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal people."

"We will also look at staffing and workforce issues in regional and rural areas, the pressures on NSW Police officers and the impact of recidivism on regional communities, on services and on law enforcement."

"The Committee wants to hear first-hand from regional communities and their representatives about best practice prevention initiatives – from standout community services to law enforcement initiatives and leading diversionary programs."

The Committee is accepting public submissions until 31 May 2024. To read the inquiry's terms of reference, and to make a submission, please visit the Committee's webpage. 

Terms of Reference

That the Committee on Law and Safety inquire into and report on:  

(a)    the drivers of youth crime across regional and rural NSW, particularly since the COVID pandemic;  

(b)    how a whole of government approach can reduce the drivers and root causes of youth crime in regional and rural NSW;

(c)    the wraparound and diversionary services available for youth and families in the regions and rural areas and how they can be better matched to individuals, measured, improved and integrated into a coordinated approach to divert youth from crime, having regard to the NSW Government's commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal people;  

(d)    staffing levels and workforce issues, including police staffing, in regional and rural areas and how services can be improved to reduce youth crime in these areas;  

(e)    recidivism rates in regional and rural areas, and related impacts on the community, services and law enforcement;  

(f)     the range of functions being performed by NSW police officers, including mental health assistance and youth welfare, on behalf of other agencies in regional and rural areas, and the supports required to assist police; and

(g)    any other related matter.  

The inquiry will report back in February 2025.