Chief Minister Michael Gunner has been accused of releasing “meaningless” youth crime data ahead of a visit to Alice Springs this week, which is being called into question by the Opposition after it was reported without scrutiny in an online newspaper.
Mr Gunner and Police Minister Nicole Manison travelled to Alice Springs to hold closed-door meetings with police about the town’s escalating youth crime problems on Wednesday, but did not hold any public meetings.
The government released data to the online Centralian Advocate newspaper that claimed recent anti-crime initiatives had been working, including that 217 “prosecution files” had been “submitted” somewhere since Strike Force Viper was initiated on October 14.
The government claimed 122 of the files were related to property offences, and “106 were submitted against youth offenders”.
That totals 228 files – not the reported 217, but the discrepancy was not explained.
The stats went unquestioned in the news story, which also ran comments attributed to Mr Gunner about how he was “really encouraged by the progress that Strike Force Viper is making. It’s their job to catch criminals and that’s exactly what they are doing”.
But CLP Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro called out the story as “spin”.
“Using terms like ‘prosecution file’ doesn’t make people safe and doesn’t tell Territorians how many of those files resulted in bail or successful prosecution,” Ms Finocchiaro said in a statement.
“The Chief Minister staged a highly shielded visit to Alice Springs yesterday, but like his previous visits, it will be completely useless if he doesn’t take real action on crime. To take real action, we need to know the data to see why things are out of control.”
Ms Finocchiaro said Mr Gunner needed to immediately answer straight-forward questions such as how many youth offenders have been arrested, how many were bailed, how many were given a verbal or written warning and how many were arrested for new offending while on bail.
“If the Gunner Labor Government answered these questions, it would provide clarity about what action needs to be taken to address the crisis,” she said.
“If they can’t answer these questions now, the Government is on notice they’ll be asked in Estimates next week.”
Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley said the trip to Alice Springs would not achieve any results for residents who have grown extremely frustrated by the town’s current state, with many fearing leaving their house at night. The issue came to a head again last week when a video of a vicious attack perpetrated by young people on Todd Street was shared on social media.
“As usual, the Chief Minister’s visit to Alice Springs will be carefully planned and choreographed to exclude contact with anyone who might provide an impassioned point of view different to his,” Ms Lambley told the NT Independent.
“The people of Alice Springs would love to share their experiences and views on crime with the Chief Minister. But there will be no chance of that happening.”
Mr Gunner’s office did not respond to questions for this story.