Beating the law and order drum on anti-social behaviour and juvenile crime in the Rutherford area just won't work, according to Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison.
Ms Aitchison, who recently set up a mobile office in Rutherford, said residents raised a full gamut of issues including the suburb's recent spate of crime.
Ms Aitchison has raised a number of issues relating to anti-social behaviour and juvenile crime in the west with Police Minister David Elliott, including a car for the Maitland Police Aboriginal Youth Liaison Officer, a lack of diversionary programs for young people, and the addition of TAFE outreach programs.
Maitland police officer in charge Inspector Rob Post said police regularly patrolled Rutherford and were aware of ongoing crime issues in the suburb - which he said were "consistent with other areas". He said police were doing everything they could to take action against offenders - in some cases, kids were arrested and charged multiple times.
Mrs Aitchison was aware of arrests but said the biggest issue was a lack of diversionary programs. She said programs such as the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project in Bourke, which emerged after concern about families experiencing high levels of social disadvantage and crime, yielded results.
"It showed the economic benefits were around five times the cost of the program (excluding in-kind donations), achieved a 31% increase in Year 12 retention rates and a 38% reduction in charges across the top five juvenile offence categories. There was also a 23% drop in domestic violence," she said.
"When we're trying to address anti-social behaviour we have to have these kinds of programs in place. Schools are doing a lot but in reality a lot of these kids don't go to school. We're seeing repeat offenders and the courts are excluding the young people from the area where they cause problems. In reality they have nowhere to go. It's not realistic. They will leave, but come back because that's where their networks are - friends and support.
"We have to realise these kids come from inter-generational poverty and family dysfunction. Some would come from second or third generations known to police," she said. "They feel disconnected from their community and are only loyal to their friends. We need to re-engage them with the community - banging the law and order drum just won't work."