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Mutual respect: Tackling youth crime in Blacktown (A) 2017-192.1

26 October 2017



Mark Wright, the new Commander of Blacktown Police in western Sydney, had been tasked with the complex job of reducing the hotspot of youth crime that was Blacktown’s Central Business District. He knew policing was part of the solution, but didn’t see a harsh law and order crackdown as the answer. After ‘checking the fences’ to see what was happening on the ground and figure out the extent of the problem, he realised a shared-power, multi-stakeholder approach had a better chance of shifting the dial of youth crime and disadvantage in his command area.

This case provides an ideal opportunity for discussion of how to approach an intractable social problem spreading across multiple organisations and policy areas – especially when it’s not obvious who should be in charge. The case can be used to explore and teach issues of problem framing, forming effective cross-government and cross-sector partnerships, stakeholder and community engagement, and client co-design and co-production of services.

Part A describes the situation as Wright encountered it on assuming command in 2008. Large groups of young people were hanging out at the train station and shopping centres, affecting community safety and local businesses in the cultural melting pot of the largest local government area in Western Sydney. For some reason, Thursday ‘fight nights’ were the most volatile day of the week. Wright set about securing the area, talking to community leaders, and learning as much as he could about why these problems were happening.

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  • Part B follows the birth of COM4unity, a coalition of police, churches, NGOs, local government, state government, and the private sector formed to bring a fresh eye to preventing youth crime in Blacktown. Initially wary of each other due to a competitive grant funding environment, they quickly realised they could combine their strengths to deliver programs unprecedented in the Blacktown area. It describes their journey from wanting to deliver services to young people, to realising they needed to deliver services with young people. Diversion programs ranged from dance showcases to soccer matches to training in retail accreditation, but they all worked to increase young people’s connection with each other and with the local area.
  • The Epilogue brings the case to late 2016, by which time the ‘dream team’ first formed in 2009 had disbanded and COM4unity was experiencing some difficulties with momentum. The initiative was still running, but programs were less frequent and members less engaged, providing material for discussion about maintaining initiatives beyond the initial period of success and excitement. It considers whether similar initiatives could work elsewhere, and describes the general environment of collegiality between service organisations that this partnership had fostered.
Authors: Sophie Yates
Published Date: 26 October 2017
Author Institution: ANZSOG / Utrecht Univ.
Content Length: 5
Product Type: Part A