Alice Springs crime ‘crisis’ scares off visitors, tourism body calls for NT government action

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Tourists are choosing to drive through Alice Springs rather than stay overnight because they fear for their safety, a central Australian tourism organization says.

Tourism Central Australia tabled a motion this week calling on the Northern Territory government to take immediate action to enforce law and order in Alice Springs, saying crime is reaching “crisis levels”.

Chief executive Danial Rochford said a visitor sought out the local information center this week when they were allegedly hit with a coward’s punch by an unprovoked offender.

“They were shaken up. It was just a pure, unadulterated assault,” he said.

A man wearing glasses with a blue and white checkered shirt leaning against a wall.
Tourism Central Australia CEO Danial Rochford.(Provided by: Danial Rochford)

Rochford says he has never seen levels of crime like this in the city and the government needs to act.

“What they’re doing isn’t working,” he said.

“The ultimate definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

“People want to know they’re going to be safe tonight.”

Crime statistics reveal rise

The latest crime statistics for Alice Springs show that almost all classes of crime have increased in the 12 months to the end of July.

Domestic violence has increased by 22 percent, while alcohol-related assaults have increased by almost 20 percent compared to the previous year.

Home burglaries, commercial burglaries and vehicle thefts have also seen significant increases.

Craig Laidler, wearing a police hat outside Alice Springs Police Station.
Craig Laidler says the rise in crime across Alice Springs is a concern.(ABC Alice Springs: Mitchell Abram)

NT Police Southern Division Commander Craig Laidler said the statistics were worrying.

“Especially when I know how much work the police do in taking people into custody – and we don’t see it as a deterrent,” he said.

Commander Laidler said police were seeing a worrying number of new, often young, faces among offenders.

“Really for me, I’d like to see that early effort where they don’t come across our path,” he said.

Alcohol legislation examined

The rise in crime comes amid changes to alcohol bans across the territory.

As of July, dozens of previously dry communities, homelands and urban camps have gained access to alcohol after restrictions as part of the 2007 NT Emergency Response ended.

NT Senator Jacinta Price is preparing a private member’s law to have the bans reinstatedas Aboriginal health services report increases in alcohol-related misuse in the wake of the law change.

People and cars on a busy street in the Alice Springs CBD as the sun sets on the horizon.
Tourism Central Australia says many tourists choose not to stay in Alice Springs.(ABC Alice Springs: Samantha Jonscher)

They are urging the federal and territory governments to establish a promised data monitoring group which will regularly release data from police and hospitals to NT Aboriginal health and legal bodies.

“Given what’s been implemented, you would have hoped that the data systems were ready to go so that the damage we’re seeing now could have been monitored in real time,” John Boffa of the Central Australian Congress of Aboriginal Peoples said.

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said this week she would discuss the controversial policy changes with the federal government, including how to better monitor their impact.

Encourages community engagement

Alice Springs councilors have also weighed in on rising crime rates, with Deputy Mayor Eli Melky saying it’s time for residents to take matters into their own hands.

“People have suggested that we find our own security for the city, including a dog team,” he said.

“I think there is legitimacy in saying that we can’t always trust the government.”

An aerial view of Alice Springs township and its urban camps on a sunny day.
Some councilors in Alice Springs believe residents should take a bigger role in fighting crime.(ABC News: Steven Schubert)

It’s a call echoed by fellow City Councilman Steve Brown, who says programs like Neighborhood Watch should be expanded.

Whatever happens, Mr Rochford says quick action is essential.

“People are openly telling the world to avoid Alice Springs,” he said.

“It has reached a stage where we have to tackle this head-on.”

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