The Fyles Government plan to help reduce crime in Alice Springs, including housing police and Territory Families, Housing and Communities staff in the one building, has been described as “ignorant” and showing a “complete lack of responsibility,” by independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley, and comes after it was revealed in Budget Estimates the government has no single documented plan to fight crime in the town.
The plan, announced on Thursday, is identical to the one announced for Darwin and Palmerston earlier in the week, with some add-ons.
It will see police leading an inter-agency tasking coordination group to “increase frontline services” when needed, police working more with youth engagement officers, more private security guards patrolling the streets, and the establishment of a secondary supply reference group to work with local governments and peak bodies to develop harm minimisation strategies.
But the Alice Springs plan adds an extra police drone to “monitor hotspots”, and more than $900,000 to be spent on security lighting upgrades and “other activities to reduce anti-social behaviour”.
Chief Minister Natasha Fyles also said there had been a trial of local monitoring of CCTV in Alice Springs which would be extended in the coming weeks, with police also using dogs to deter anti-social behaviour.
In Budget Estimates hearings on June 21, it was revealed Ms Fyles’s government did not have a central crime reduction plan for Alice Springs, and Police Minister Kate Worden was unable to explain how different government departments were working cohesively to address the ongoing crime crisis in the town.
Ms Worden said there were “compounding issues underneath that need to be fixed” in Alice Springs, and suggested getting kids to school would help with crime, committing to working with her other department, Territory Families, to engage in “early prevention” strategies to address crime.
“Is there a documented plan?” asked Opposition CLP Justice spokesman Steve Edgington. “Is there one documented plan that shows what each agency is supposed to be doing to reduce crime and what each non-government agency is supposed to be doing? If there is not, why is that?”
“I do not know that that is a reality,” Ms Worden said.
When asked if there was no plan to reduce crime Ms Worden said Mr Edgington was playing politics and would not answer the question.
Ms Lambley, who originally asked Ms Worden about her plan to fix crime in Alice Springs in Estimates, said Ms Fyles showed ignorance and a lack of responsibility with her new plan.
“Her solution to outrageously escalating crime across the Northern Territory is to ‘colocate a couple of government of departments’ including child protection and police,” she said.
“Her ignorance and complete lack of responsibility is astounding. Re-organising the bureaucracy is what you do when you can’t think of anything else. It is literally just window dressing.
“Alice Springs has seen crime intensifying even more in the last week, with around 100 vehicles vandalised, Alice Springs Town Council trashed, and countless other break and enters and serious assaults.
“The best the new chief minister can offer is some internal department changes. The word pathetic comes to mind.”
Ms Fyles said the police-led coordination group would include relevant agencies such as Territory Families, Housing and Communities, and service providers, “to ensure targeted responses to reduce the contributing factors of anti-social behaviour and enhance community safety service delivery through a collaborative partnership approach”.
And she said, that to “improve communications and collaborations”, police and Territory Families, Housing and Communities teams will soon be in one office.
There are already private security guards on the streets of Alice Springs but Ms Fyles said they would now be operating between 6:45pm and 5am, “during peak times”.
Ms Fyles said three new “flexible learning programs” had begun in the town at the start of the term, and the newly commenced Sunset School Yipirinya College would be extended over the next 12 months. She said it has been operating outside school hours, three afternoons a week and on weekends but did not say what the school did.
A new learning and teaching culture program was about to commence at the Alice Springs Language Centre, she said, to offer students language and cultural education, and the government had also funded a new senior teacher to provide expertise to Tangentyere Council Aboriginal Corporation youth program staff, supporting them to incorporate learning activities in their programs.
She said the three new programs were on top of a range of “engagement initiatives” already in place in Central Australia, including the Brown Street and Gap youth. She did not expand on what those initiatives entailed.
“This is just the beginning. We won’t solve this overnight, or on our own. Which is why I’m here listening to the community. We are adapting our approach to crime. We are going to light up more of the Alice Springs Todd Street mall and surrounding streets, along with security patrols,” she said.