Kununurra increases airport security after spike in youth crime

Staff at a northern Australian airport have beefed up security in response to what local officials say is a credible threat that teenagers might break-in and try to take a plane.

Key points:Security has been increased at Kununurra airport due to a credible youth crime threatThe warning comes amid a spike in car thefts and ram raidsShire president David Menzel says the town's youth crime problem is not acceptable 

Kununurra Police passed on the warning last month to Wyndham East Kimberley Shire Council, which operates East Kimberley Regional Airport.

Shire president David Menzel said council officers had since increased airport security and warned aircraft operators to be vigilant.

"There's been quite a lot of cars stolen … joyriders … and there was a belief that there may be an attempt to take an aircraft, as [an escalation] of the activities going on," he said.

"I'm not willing to give all the information away on the security but we've certainly stepped it up. It will make it very difficult for people to breach the security zone and do anything silly."

While authorities considered it highly unlikely youths would be able to start an aircraft, they were concerned that equipment could be damaged.

"The point is they're going to be in a security controlled area," Cr Menzel said.

"You just don't want anyone without authority mucking around with aircraft."

The airport services a variety of aircraft from passenger jets to small planes used for tourism, recreation and agriculture purposes.

'Failure of the system'

The warning came amid a spike in car thefts and ram raids in the region during October.

Cr Menzel said the need to address airport security was a low point as the town grappled with youth crime.

"It certainly points to a failure of the system. This is not acceptable. It wouldn't be acceptable in a metropolitan area," he said.

"It's significant that we have so many cars stolen in our town. I'm pretty sure it's because we're in a remote area that that's allowed to continue."

A plane's wing next to a runway with Kununurra scenery in distance
Authorities have responded to a credible information that teenagers might try and break-in to Kununurra's airport. (ABC News: Courtney Fowler)

Kununurra's youth crime rate peaked in 2019 before dropping sharply when COVID-19 hit last year, but those gains could be lost by the end of this year.

According to WA's crime statistics, one car has been reported stolen every three days on average this year in a town of just over 5,000 people.

Cr Menzel praised the town's many agencies which tried to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds but said more work needed to be done at a policy level.

"I believe those agencies are doing significant work in the community and it would be a lot worse without those interactions the agencies are having with our youth," he said.

"There's obviously so much of this [crime] going on and continuing to go on and what we're doing is not enough.

"It's very easy to blame the state for all our social problems but at the end of the day they are the ones with the statutory obligations."

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Posted 2 Nov 20212 Nov 2021Tue 2 Nov 2021 at 8:37pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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