The youth-crime epidemic has Wagga residents calling for stronger bail laws but leaders say a cure lies elsewhere.
It follows the re-arrest of a 15-year-old boy who was last week accused of break and enter, 24-hours after he received bail.
Wagga Neighbourhood Watch president Wayne Deaner said everyday he heard Wagga residents say bail laws should be reviewed and made stronger to stop the spate of repeated crime across the city.
However, he said one of the biggest problems was the location young offenders were housed in while on bail.
Mr Deaner said more funding was needed to address the negative and abusive environments kids were often sent right back to.
Wagga MP Daryl Maguire said homes could sometimes be more dysfunctional than detention centres or jail.
“Some of these kids are better off on the goddamn street than what goes on at home,” Mr Maguire said.
“They see themselves as above the law because their attitude is ‘born tough’.”
Drug and alcohol worker Damien Kennedy said he often saw youth bailed right back to bad influences.
He said the courts were sometimes returning children and teenagers to abusive and drug-and-alcohol fuelled environments.
As a result, he said teens were missing out on the opportunity for a decent future because more emphasis was placed on punishing than rehabilitating.
“They’re bailed to a house with a bit of a curfew and they're allowed to roam free… eventually they’re back at court and off to jail,” Mr Kennedy said.
“They just stay in the same pattern. They’re never given a chance.”
Mr Kennedy said there needed to be something bigger within Wagga – a type of culturally appropriate centre on the river that offenders on-bail could attend as part of their conditions.
“They’d have to attend five-days a week and do some sort of training and learn some sort of skill,” he said.
“They could go there to socialise, find better role models and learn better life skills.”
Mr Kennedy said he had witnessed clients turning their lives around through rehabilitation and employment. He said he wanted others given the same chance.
As an example of a positive community initiative – he said the first night of RivMed’s four-week youth-program “Ngunbaay-dyil” would be held from 6pm in the Tolland Community Hall this Friday.