CHILDREN as young as four years old and their involvement in crime in the community dominated a talk from Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command Inspector Joanne Reid about policing in the Clarence Valley.
Overall, Insp Reid reported that the crime statistics in the Clarence Valley are dropping, however, incidents involving domestic violence are on the rise as are reports of scams.
However, it was the issues Clarence Valley police face with children being involved in crime and anti-social behaviour that the audience was most concerned about.
"It's pretty worrying when I get reports of kids as young as four breaking into abandoned premises, malicious damage type of things. It's just general anti-social behaviour because they are getting swept up by an older group of kids, who are 10, 12, 14,” she said.
"At the moment, it's not just a police problem because really, what am I going to do with a four-year-old.”
"We're trying to engage a number of other agencies and try to make it a much more collaborative approach and we're having regular meetings with Family and Community Services, Justice for Youth On Track... and the Department of Education.
"We're trying to (identify) who are our children at risk and what can we do about it because simply locking them up isn't the only answer, it's a solution, it's not the be all and end all.”
Insp Reid said they are not just facing the issues with the children, but the parents of children who are involved in anti-social behaviour.
"At the moment, our staff are out in South Grafton, predominately at night, and if you are under 16 and you're unsupervised, you get picked up and taken home,” she said.
"We explain to the parents (why they are being brought home), some who appreciate what we are doing, some not so much.”
Many of the children Insp Reid said the Clarence Valley police deal with are "disengaged from school” and they are working closely with the Department of Education to deal with the issue.
Insp Reid explained that the age of criminal responsibility is 12, but can go down to 10 if criteria are met.
The first step is to give them a warning, or official caution. Once they have exhausted three official cautions, they move onto a conference where they sit down with the victim of their crime.
After they exhaust their conferences, they can be charged.
Insp Reid said this is why the Clarence Valley police are working with FACS and the Department of Education, to try and break the cycle of crime and anti-social behaviour in children before they reach this process.