Camouflaged police with assault weapons to patrol NT streets at night to reduce youth crime
The Northern Territory’s Police Commissioner has revealed plans to send a unit of camouflaged, specialised police with military-grade assault weapons to patrol Darwin and Alice Springs at night.
- Police say deploying TRG is necessary to allay community concerns during Christmas
- Royal commission report states police are over-arresting, over-charging children and youth
- Police say decision to deploy TRG not based “strictly on pure evidence”
The Territory Response Group (TRG) is part of the Australian Government’s national counter-terrorism taskforce.
Commissioner Reece Kershaw said deploying the TRG was necessary to allay community concerns during the Christmas period, when crime was known to spike.
He said youth offenders were responsible for around 50 per cent of property break-ins, and the TRG would have equipment, such as night vision goggles, to monitor people “acting suspiciously”.
“We’ve had information around Alice Springs of kids jumping onto roofs of hotels and stealing people’s wallets and all sorts of things,” Mr Kershaw said.
“[The TRG] will be there to act as surveillance, and what we call the night-time assessment team”.
The announcement came a week to the day since a royal commission delivered its report on youth detention and child protection systems in the Northern Territory.
The report published damning findings about police over-arresting and over-charging children and youth.
A recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years of age has so far been accepted by the NT Government “in principle”.
Legal groups have called for an immediate moratorium on child arrests, but so far the Government has not provided a timeframe on when the recommendation would come into effect.
Decision to deploy TRG not based ‘strictly on pure evidence’
Mr Kershaw said the core responsibility of police was to uphold law and order, and the royal commission’s report had not changed that.
He confirmed no procedural changes to police conduct had been made.
Another of the royal commission’s findings was that public perceptions of youth crime in particular were not supported by data.
Mr Kershaw agreed his decision to deploy the TRG was not based “strictly on pure evidence”.
“It’s [based] on intelligence and information that the community give us,” he said.
“For example, if someone says there’s been a group of youths hanging around in an area — we may not have seen them — but we’ve got to validate that information.
“We know that our activity over this period in general does go up.”
Some kids on street because of domestic violence
Mr Kershaw said some children and young people were out on the streets at night because they were fleeing unsafe homes.
“We’d rather prevent crime before it occurs, and some of these kids are out on the streets because of things like domestic violence,” he said.
“We know that because of studies of repeat young offenders and some of their history.
“We’re going to be working with Territory Families and other agencies and NGOs to answer how do we provide that safe place for these kids to go to, and keep them on the right path.”
Asked whether TRG officers would be approaching children as young as 10 while camouflaged and carrying assault weapons, Mr Kershaw said “they may be”.
He said it was up to the response group to determine how they conducted their operation.
“At the moment, we’re bringing these children and youth before the courts, and nothing has come to me to say we’re breaking the law — we’re here to uphold and maintain social order,” he said.
“We give them the task, and how they deliver that is up to them.
“They’re there, making sure they identify those offenders.”