Violent Teen Gangs Taking Over Queensland Streets
'Police are losing against gangs' The Courier-Mail 2/8/2008)

DRIVE-by beatings and random "swarming" attacks by teens armed with knives and poles are leaving a bloody trail across southeast Queensland.

This week's meat cleaver attack by a gang of youths at a Brisbane boys' college is the latest major episode illustrating youth violence is becoming more blatant and unpredictable.

Seven teens, linked to a gang called the Jay Jays, were arrested after a student at St Laurence's College in South Brisbane was hit in the face with the cleaver and another stabbed.

On the Gold Coast, a child gang operating "like a pack of animals" attacked a young couple in a Coolangatta park.

One gang member used a fence to give himself extra leverage to stomp on one of his hapless victims. The gang, whose members are as young as 11, celebrated with high-fives and disappeared into the night, leaving the couple bruised and bloodied.

Residents living next to the South Bank Parklands have witnessed late-night gang clashes involving more than 50 ethnic teens.

Youth gang attacks are frequent all over southeast Queensland — including a recent attack on a 32-year-old Goodna man who had his nose broken after being jumped by a group of teens, and the assault of a man in a drive-by attack.

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson yesterday said he was worried about a "slippage" in youth violence affecting the quality of life for Queenslanders.

Inspector Greg Carey, crime manager for the Tweed-NSW police command, said youth gangs were flourishing.

"There is no doubt it's a phenomenon that is rapidly escalating in this country," Inspector Carey said.

Experts say Queensland has a history of denial about youth gang violence, and isn't moving fast enough to address its root causes.

While the state has a $2 million taskforce dedicated to adult motor-cycle gangs, there is no such unit targeting youth gangs, and data on youth violence isn't collected by police or the Education Department.

Police Minister Judy Spence claims the Queensland Government has been proactive and has taken "strong action" against youth violence since creating a taskforce on the topic in 2006.

Actions included a crackdown on the sale of alcohol to minors, launch of a One Punch Can Kill campaign and increased penalties for the misuse of knives and other weapons to cause fear in public.

Ms Spence denied there was evidence of highly organised violent "youth gangs" in Queensland. However, community officials and police confirm youth gangs, some sporting red and blue bandannas, and claiming allegiance to US-based Crips and Bloods gangs, exist in some Brisbane suburbs.

Many other gangs are nameless, but still come together to sell and use drugs, steal, and attack people at random.

Often "swarming" attacks are organised by mobile phone communications, and hit and run strikes are documented on video files and uploaded to the internet where gangs use them for recruiting.

"It's pretty much everywhere in Brisbane," said an 18-year-old woman with mates who belong to gangs. "Some gangs just like to go out and bash people. It's something to do."

Goodna security worker Joe Graff has a daily battle with young troublemakers at his shopping centre south of Brisbane, where he tries to protect shoppers and storeowners from teens stealing and running amok.

"Some kids, if they see an easy target, they go for it," he said. "They have nothing better to do, and nothing to lose, so they go for it. They are trying to make a name for themselves to impress their peers and girls. It's getting worse. We need to do something about it."

Queensland University of Technology educator and psychologist Marilyn Campbell said punishing aggressive youths often worsened their behaviour. She has called for more intervention in primary and high schools.

"One bully does a lot of damage to a lot of victims," she said. "We're not dealing with them early enough or in ways that have been shown to work,"

Government statistics show there were more than 15,000 "physical misconduct" incidents leading to suspensions and expulsions from Queensland public schools. Ms Campbell said such discipline could work for some but for others made a bad problem worse.

Former director of the Australian Institute of Criminology Adam Graycar said he had discovered a difference between American and Australian youth crime since taking up a role at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"Here gang behaviour is serious business — a full apprenticeship program, learning all aspects of the crime business," he said. "In Australia, it is more kids hanging out, and engaging in anti-social behaviour with a bit of illegal behaviour thrown in — drug taking, robbery and car theft."