The NSW government announced on Tuesday a $26.2 million package of reforms and initiatives to support community safety and wellbeing, particularly in regional NSW, with a focus on strengthening early intervention and prevention programs for young people.

Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that crime rates in regional NSW remain higher than in metro areas.

There are also reports of an emerging phenomenon of offenders posting recordings of their offending behaviour on social media, particularly in relation to motor vehicle offending.

The government believes this type of ‘performance crime’ may encourage others, specifically young people, to engage in similar criminal behaviour.

It states the current status quo is not working for young people who are re-offending and being caught up in this cycle, and it is not working for those communities who do not feel safe.

The government said the reforms address the increased rate of offending and community safety concerns through key elements.

The reforms also aim to help protect the community and significantly lift support for young people and disadvantaged communities and were informed by months of engagement with regional communities across NSW.

The NSW government will invest $13.4 million for a targeted response in Moree to address crime, support young people and improve community safety.

Country Mayors Association Chair Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the announcement, a timely intervention by the Premier following his recent visit to Moree, was recognition of the CMA’s call for change to address the inequity regional communities face.

“It’s obvious the Premier’s visit to Moree has shone a spotlight on the urgent need for action in regional New South Wales to address our crime issues,” Cr Chaffey said.

“We are supportive of the legislative reforms focussed on youth crime and hopeful it will bring about meaningful change. We urge the Government to implement these reforms as soon as possible. Regional New South Wales cannot afford to wait.

“If the minor changes to bail laws are legislated and actions such as ‘posting and boasting’ are outlawed, our hope is this will form part of the solution in reducing youth crime in regional communities.

Law Society of NSW president Brett McGrath welcomed the funding initiatives in the youth justice package announced by the NSW government, but warned a failure to consult with experts on bail and crime amendments risks flawed legislation.

“The Law Society acknowledges the importance of community safety and recognises the government’s desire to address community concerns about youth crime in certain parts of NSW,” Mr McGrath said.

“We are, however, disappointed that legislation to introduce a ‘temporary’ tightened bail test for certain offences will be introduced in the absence of any meaningful input from experts with daily experience of these issues on our criminal law, children’s legal issues, and indigenous issues committees.

“Tightening the test for bail will result in more children being sent into custody. In circumstances where youth justice centres are often many hours from child defendants’ families and communities, this change has the potential to do a great deal more harm than good.

“The government intends to collect evidence over the next 12 months on the operation of the new bail provision before deciding whether it should continue.”

The NSW government will introduce considered legislative changes to strengthen bail laws and introduce a new offence for disseminating material to advertise an offender’s involvement in or the commission of targeted serious offences.

• Amending the Bail Act: The NSW government will amend the Bail Act 2013 to include a temporary additional bail test for young people between 14 and 18 charged with committing certain serious break and enter offences or motor vehicle theft offences while on bail for the same offences. This means that a bail authority such as police, magistrates and judges will need to have a high degree of confidence that the young person will not commit a further serious indictable offence while on bail. The amendments will be subject to a 12-month sunset clause so that any future action or changes can be made with evidence to assess the efficacy of the new laws.

• A new offence for “posting and boasting”: The NSW government will introduce legislation that will create a new offence in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) imposing an additional penalty of two years’ imprisonment for people who commit motor vehicle theft or break and enter offences and share material to advertise their involvement in this criminal behaviour. This new provision will be the subject of a statutory review that will take place two years after it commences.

The NSW government will invest $12.9 million to fund a new range of state-wide regional crime prevention initiatives including:

• Expansion of Youth Action Meetings (YAMs) in nine Police Districts.

• Expansion of the Safe Aboriginal Youth Patrol Program (SAY) to an additional five Closing the Gap (CTG) priority locations (to be determined in consultation with communities), reducing the risk of young Aboriginal people being victims of crime, and the risk they will become persons of interest in relation to a crime.

• The government will also continue the roll out of $7.5 million in Justice Reinvestment grants with grant funding available to recipients as early as June 2024.

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