A call to stop teen brawls by Sabrina Cortez

Sabrina Cortez - File PhotoDeafening screams, graphic body scars and the gruesome sound of bones breaking and kids yelling in pain. Welcome to Blacktown’s youth fight night.

Last month, a shocking footage of a young female teenager being kicked and punched at Blacktown train station has prompted calls for more security.

It all started when one male teen made a vulgar comment to another teen. Now, it is one of the ugliest scenes of youth attacks witnessed on Blacktown’s streets in weeks.

Violent conflict among young people is not a new thing. The only difference now is the starting point of fights. Fights that used to start on street corners and in school hallways have now moved to the internet, in full view of a larger audience.

In the aftermath of these fights, mass social sharing of videos and photos of the brawls also hinders the opportunity to stop disengaged teens acting out.

So, what is there to say about the effectiveness of increased security? Will CCTV, ramped up numbers of police officers at transport interchanges and youth hotspots be the answers we are looking for?

In an interview with the Blacktown Advocate (10 March 2016), North West Command Inspector Daniel Wiggins said that crime at the station had decreased between 2014 and 2015, with the help of plain clothes officers and CCTV.

“We can’t take credit for reducing all crime here but it has a flow on effect; a lot of people who do commit crimes use the transport hub so what we do is proactively patrol the transport hub so what we do is proactively patrol the interchange,” he said.

We must explore other options

Enforcing a higher security program might be the extreme effort we need, but it may also be worth exploring other options to help disengage youth from acting out or resulting to the kneejerk reaction to physically fight each other.

Elaine Smith*, mother of one of the attacked female teen, said to the Blacktown Advocate: “Our communities rise or fall on our ability to live communally. If characteristics such as trust, respect, honour and integrity are not reciprocated, one to the other (sic) than we have chaos and anarchy.”

Concerned citizens could take an alternative option other than heightened law enforcement to resolve conflict among members of their own community. It could be a first point of action, since they are more likely to share social and cultural backgrounds. We will simply need to give them tools to intervene effectively.

The local council, State and Federal government need to act and start now. There are many opportunities for crime prevention education and outreach programs to be integrated into our communities while using the installation of security measures as a fall back program for monitoring social behaviour in our streets.

We could consider to Melbourne’s City Soccer Program, and bring on board local sporting heroes to attract idle youth and bring social awareness. This should have some impact against youth brawls.

In the face of a growing social issues, we need to resolve it with social strategies. The future of our youth should not be placed at risk but rather embraced by breaking down the barriers. We must give them opportunities in a non-threatening environment.

Blacktown, the time to act is now.