CHILD criminals are causing alarm across Queensland, with juvenile offenders as young as eight committing serious crimes from Cairns to the Gold Coast.
Frustrated north Queensland police have set up a gang-buster unit to tackle a "hardcore" group of about 60 children believed responsible for a spike in violent crime in Cairns. This follows the arrest of an accused 10-year-old armed robber on the Gold Coast last week.
And there were more problems with young offenders at the weekend, with Kingaroy police using a Taser on a 16-year-old boy they thought may have been armed. Two boys were also arrested in Mount Isa after allegedly crossing into Queensland from the Northern Territory with stolen goods.
Senior Cairns police have deployed an eight-man team to crack down on juvenile crime in an effort to calm public outcry and threats of vigilante justice after a series of muggings and brazen robberies.
Cairns District Acting Superintendent Russell Rhodes said the hardcore element, some as young as eight, had driven a 15% jump in street crime.
"They don't fear the court, justice system or police," Inspector Rhodes said. "They are the product of some very poor parenting and mob mentality," he said. "Sadly they are becoming more and more aggressive."
Tourists have been mugged in daylight, bags snatched from the elderly and late-night revellers bashed by gangs of up to a dozen teenagers.
The 10-year-old Gold Coast accused armed robber, who was believed to be in state care when he allegedly went on a two-day crime spree, is being represented by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service.
A recent report by the Australian Institute of Criminology found juveniles committed almost 20 per cent of all crimes in Queensland and were four times more likely to offend than adults.
Opposition police spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said the State Government was "soft" on juvenile crime and "needs to get tough". He said Queensland's youth detention centres were being used as remand "lounges" rather than as centres for convicted offenders.
"The Bligh Government says our detention centres are full but they are mostly full of young people waiting for trial and/or sentencing."
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said yesterday he was concerned at secrecy surrounding punishment under the Youth Justice Act. "Maybe if some of these young offenders were named and shamed, it would act as a deterrent," he said.