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Image: South Burnett CTC Youth & Family Services manager Kirsten Firman, Detective Inspector Chris Knight and Acting Office-In-Charge of Kingaroy Police, Acting Senior Sergeant Scott Prendergast

Crime trends in the South Burnett are actually “pretty good”, the Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce’s April Meet’n’Greet was told on Tuesday night.

The get-together of local businesspeople was hosted by South Burnett CTC at the not-for-profit organisation’s Youth and Family Services facility, next to the Kingaroy Youth Park.

More than 70 local businesspeople plus South Burnett CTC staff and media were in attendance.

Guest speaker was Detective Inspector Chris Knight, currently stationed in the South West District.

Det Insp Knight said any crime in an area was no good, but the trends for the South Burnett region “really are pretty good”.

“(However) I know low-volume crime will have an impact on you … more so than on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane,” he said.

Det Insp Knight showed tables comparing crime rates in Kingaroy, Murgon and Cherbourg over the past four years.

For burglaries / unlawful entry, rates were trending downwards. And clear-up rates were about 70 per cent, compared with State averages of about 45 per cent.

“Zero is what you’re aiming for, but overall, they’re heading in the right direction,” Det Insp Knight said.

Motor vehicle thefts were also declining, but children were over-represented in these statistics.

For assaults, Kingaroy rates were declining a lot, Murgon was static and Cherbourg slightly up.  About 90 per cent were solved.

“What you don’t see … is offences of violence being committed against random victims,” Det Insp Knight said.

“The number of stranger attacks across Queensland, thankfully, is very, very small.”

Youths were over-represented in property offences, but not in crimes of violence where the largest majority of offenders were adults.

However, Det Insp Knight said he was especially concerned about knife crime, and police would be launching a campaign about this later in the year.

He said knife crime on the Gold Coast was “something you never want to experience”.

“But it’s starting to creep into a lot of smaller communities,” he said. “Wherever you have got young people carrying knives, you’ve got no winners.

“We’ve got an opportunity to get on top of it now before it becomes the problem we are seeing elsewhere.”

Det Insp Knight shared the tragic tale of his first day in Homicide when he was called to investigate the death of a 12-year-old schoolboy, stabbed by a 13-year-old at the same school in the Nudgee area.

“There are no winners in that scenario. It is horrible for everybody involved. When you’ve got young people, immature people, carrying knives, their propensity for using them is terrific.”

He said young people carried knives because “it looks tough” and they have seen it on TV, “but the minute they’re faced with a bit of conflict, it’s very easy to pull it out and things are bad”.

“It’s not a huge issue at the moment in Kingaroy but it is something that I really hope the Kingaroy community and the South Burnett in general can get behind.

“It’s important for all your children. Little things become big things when you add a knife to that equation.”

* * * * *

South Burnett CTC Youth & Family Services manager Kirsten Firman was the second main speaker on the night.

Mrs Firman explained the structure of the organisation and the responsibilities of the various arms.

“We do all social services except aged care,” she said.

These include:

  • Disability Services  – 191 clients supported through NDIS
  • Partners In Foster Care – 157 children in care (“We are desperate always for foster carers”)
  • Residential Services – Four houses catering for 12 young people at the moment, aged 11-17 years. The Kingaroy Youth Hostel was recently funded to allow overnight youth workers.
  • Domestic Violence Support – 70 active clients (“We’re really struggling with the overload”)
  • Money Management – Financial counselling and emergency relief. About $2000 of the annual $5000 budget for emergency relief was spent in the first quarter of this year, usually a time of lower demand; 81 people presented for support (“People come in who haven’t eaten for days”)

CTC was not a mental health service, but mental health issues affected its clients.

“Right now we are supporting 167 clients who have identified they have a mental illness,” Mrs Firman said.

“(Of these) 48 per cent are getting support from mental health services and 52 per cent are on wait lists for that support.

“The clients we have are the most vulnerable in the community … it’s an issue for us.”

Mrs Firman said CTC was also really struggling to get housing for its most vulnerable clients.

She said everyone knew the rental market at the moment was hard but getting housing for clients with a lower income – and sometimes a poor rental history – was almost impossible.

As short-term options, CTC was putting together homelessness support kits for street sleepers (14 last quarter).

These included backpack beds, sleeping bags and food packs filled with items that do not have to be cooked.

* * * * *

Other topics covered at the Meet’n’Greet included: 

  • May is Small Business Month – BIEDO will be hosting several events, including a “Social Media For Business” workshop by KCCI president Damien Martoo (The Martoo Review) on May 6 in Murgon; and a Zoom workshop about Instagram. More information is available online
  • Kingaroy Christmas Carnival Committee is looking for sponsors for this year’s event.
  • BaconFest, to be held in August, is also looking for sponsors.
  • The Commonwealth Bank in Kingaroy has come on board to help sponsor the KCCI’s SMILE (mental health) campaign. KCCI has also put in $10,000 from its own funds. Dates for events will be announced soon.
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) has been funded by the State Government to hire a Regional Stakeholder Manager, Tim Sayre, to support local Chambers of Commerce.
  • The next KCCI Meet’n’Greet will be held on June 8 at SportFirst in Alford Street, Kingaroy.