Youth crime has dropped by 70 per cent in Broome in the past year – a stunning turnaround mostly attributed to the success of an alternative education program at the PCYC which has pushed school attendance rates up by up to 90 per cent.
Two years ago, Pius Gregory and Zac Austral, now both 16, were part of a group of what Broome police call “prolific priority offenders”: teenagers believed responsible for a big proportion of crimes including theft, burglary and antisocial behavior.
But since enrolling in the program, conceived by Senior Constable John Allanson two years ago and run with help from Broome Senior High School, youth workers and an Aboriginal education officer, both have become model students who keep out of trouble.
Zac said in the past, he would hang about at home in the day before meeting his mates to “go stealing” at night.
“I was in trouble and not really going to school that much,” he said. “I was stealing and breaking into houses ... all the bad stuff.”
When he saw his cousins doing well at the PCYC Learning Centre, which focuses on building skills and encouraging a stable routine, he asked if he could attend too.
Due to graduate next year, he has started on its new work experience program, spending two days this week working at Cygnet Bay Pearls, a partner in the initiative. Two weeks ago, he worked on a cattle station, which he hoped to return to.
Dampier Peninsula acting officer- in-charge Sergeant Ben Croy said the eight boys enrolled in the PCYC program were doing “exceptionally well”.
“It’s been very, very successful – prior to the school being implemented the attendance rates were as low as 5 per cent – now they’re up to 95 per cent,” he said.
“The majority of these kids haven’t committed a crime in two years ... giving them some hope and some inspiration to others that have been in trouble with the police.”
Broome PCYC senior youth worker Sam Heseltine said police told him last month that youth crime in Broome had dropped by 70 per cent in the past year.
“I think the Broome PCYC Learning Centre has a lot to do with that, and the collaboration of other youth agencies in Broome,” he said.
“With the boys no longer committing crimes, it’s also invaluable in passing onto their younger brothers and cousins that it’s probably not the right thing to do, going out stealing and breaking the law.”