Northern Territory Police have been issuing media statements over the last week announcing charges against individuals for alleged crimes that took place many months ago, raising questions over police management’s ability to report and resolve crimes in a timely manner.
The updates on historic crimes come as the NT Police and the Gunner Government face increased pressure over staffing issues and reports of a “mass exodus” of officers leaving the NT for positions elsewhere across the country.
Late last year, the NT Independent reported on internal emails that instructed officers to refrain from admitting to the public they were short-staffed if the public complained about the slow response time for incidents.
On Wednesday, Strike Force Trident issued a media statement to say they had charged two youths, aged 12 and 13, with property crime offenses, including for an incident from October 25, 2020 and another incident that allegedly took place his week.
Both children allegedly broke into and stole from small businesses in Darwin during that period. Police did not mention what properties were targeted by the youth offenders, how they are certain the pair were involved in the two separate incidents or why they weren’t charged sooner.
Police said the 12-year-old was charged with fourteen counts of stealing, damage to property, unlawful entry of a dwelling, and attempting to commit an offence.
The 13-year-old meanwhile was charged with four counts of stealing. He was bailed and will be dealt with under the Youth Justice Act 2005, police said.
“Strike Force Trident is currently investigating a number of shop stealings in the northern suburbs and Palmerston over the past months,” said Detective Senior Sergeant Robert Jordan.
He said “other youths” may be charged in the future, but did not explain why it took police nearly three months to start looking at break and enters.
“We expect that a number of other youths will be brought before the courts in the near future,” Sgt Jordan said.
Police media manager Rob Cross did not respond to a question about why police are only investigating crimes from October now.
On Sunday evening, NT Police said in another release that they had arrested a 27-year-old man in relation to three aggravated robberies, including one that is alleged to have occurred on October 27, 2020, when the man used an edged weapon to threaten and steal money from a driver in Parap.
On November 15, the same man allegedly used an edged weapon again to rob a man who was sitting in his car outside a venue in Palmerston. The same man allegedly threatened and robbed a taxi driver in Driver, also using an edged weapon on January 13, 2021.
Mr Cross did not explain why again it took three months to charge the man.
And last Friday, Strike Force Trident said in another release that they had charged a 15-year-old male with property offences following several unlawful entries in the Darwin region between October 2020 and January 2021.
Authorities have alleged the teenager entered several residential properties across Darwin and Palmerston during those periods. Police said they executed a search warrant at his residence on Thursday and located several stolen items and charged the male.
“Jobs sit there” due to a lack of officers: NTPA
Earlier this week, NT Police Association (NTPA) President Paul McCue called on the Gunner Government to take the association’s advice on board and find out the real reasons behind staff shortages in the NT police force.
“There are times where those jobs have to sit there because there’s simply not enough police to get to them and that’s the concern for the community,” Mr McCue told ABC Radio Darwin.
“We’ve lost 59 police or police auxiliaries since the start of July, it’s nearly 10 a month. Many of those, the majority of those are due to resignations. There are some retirements and dismissals, but many are because people just had enough and are heading back down south.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner downplayed the staff shortages earlier this week, suggesting the officers lost to interstate forces would be replaced by new recruits going through the police college now.
But CLP Opposition deputy leader Gerard Maley said the government had “dropped the ball” on keeping experienced officers in the NT.
“The Chief Minister is blaming interstate police force recruitment drives, but it’s hard to believe so many officers would give up generous pay and conditions to move interstate, without additional factors contributing to them leaving; including internal discipline and the promotional system,” he said.
“The message from the peak body representing our officers is that police are under staffed and under resourced right across the board. This proves the Gunner Government has completely dropped the ball on recruitment and they’re still chasing their tails.”
The police media unit did not respond to questions about the current focus on solving crimes from October.