NT’s ‘tough on crime’ approach not working as young people jailed over TikTok copycat ramraids

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The head of Northern Territory police says his officers have “filled the jails” as TikTok-related dangerous driving continues in Alice Springs.

NT Police have twice in two weeks issued early morning safety warnings to the Alice Springs CBD following dangerous driving incidents in the city centre.

Early Wednesday morning, two stolen four-wheelers attempted to ram police vehicles, which Commissioner Jamie Chalker said resulted in the arrests of a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old.

The incident prompted the police draw 40 officers from remote stations and other parts of the force to patrol the community, but he doubted further arrests were the answer.

“We’ve already broken the record four times this year for the largest number of adults ever imprisoned in the Northern Territory,” he said.

56 young people are currently in custody in the NT and police have apprehended 80 young people in Alice Springs over the past four weeks.

“It speaks to much larger underlying social problems,” he said.

The extra resources will target repeat offenders through home visits to ensure the children “are critically aware that we are monitoring their movements as best as possible.”

Central Australian Youth Justice Network chair Kirsten Wilson said it was clear a tough-on-crime approach was not working.

“We need a government willing to commit long-term resources and investment to the root causes of crime, such as poverty, housing and education,” she said.

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NT police arrest five youths in relation to dangerous driving.(Provided by: Northern Territory Police)

TikTok has a “role to play” in the trend

Wednesday’s ram raid is the third time stolen vehicles have been used in the NT to ram police vehicles, following other incidents in Alice Springs and Katherine.

The events appeared on TikTok soon after they happened and the post quickly gained viral status.

Kirsten Engels said she believed the social media platform “had an element to play” in the behaviour.

“There are a lot of ramraids on TikTok … New Zealand is going through a similar wave right now,” she said.

Belinda Barnet, associate professor of social media at Swinburne University, said it was important that videos of crimes were reported quickly so the platform could remove them.

“And secondly … don’t play the content that was made by the perpetrator of the crime because it rewards them.” said Dr Barnet.

But most importantly, Dr Barnet said TikTok-inspired crimes were a symptom of larger social problems.

“In the long run, you have to address the underlying social issues that mean they have to seek empowerment or kudos through TikTok instead of living their lives in a different way,” she said.

Union points to Stronger Futures

Commissioner Chalker said his officers had “packed up to leave their homes” to respond to problems in Alice Springs.

Northern Territory Police Association senior vice-president Lisa Bayliss said a summer surge in operations could be expected but this year’s pressure on officers had started early.

Ms Bayliss said there was clearly a need for additional officers in the city, but said this would come at the expense of “core business”.

Ms Bayliss attributed the recent spate of anti-social behavior to the repeal of Stronger Futures legislation, which saw a number of city camps and communities gain access to alcohol.

“There has been an increase in domestic violence in alcohol related offenses and of course there is an impact on the young people who are not in a safe environment,” she said.

Mayor calls for federal help

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson said the NT Government should consider calling on the Federal Government to help.

“If the NT Government can’t solve the crime issues, it’s okay to ask the Federal Government for help,” Mr Paterson said.

“[They could] come help Alice Springs residents to make sure they are safe and ensure our CBD is not closed mid-week due to anti-social behaviour.”

Police Minister Kate Worden said the NT Government was equipped to deal with the crime wave.

“We don’t need to be alarmist about these issues,” Ms Worden said.

“We’ve increased resources … into Alice Springs. I’m already hearing that [police] has been able to arrest a number of offenders in Alice Springs. It is an operational matter.”

Ms Worden also reiterated the NT Government was close to implementing a policy that will see children found on the streets late at night in Alice Springs removed from their family homes.

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