Children are being used by criminal gangs to commit crime with kids stealing cars and gloating about their exploits on social media, a police chief has warned, amid the mysterious death of a 12-year-old boy.
Australian teenagers are now being swept into organised crime networks with widely circulated videos promoting serious criminal behaviour online, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb said.
Young people are easily influenced by videos shared online and crime gangs are exploiting their vulnerabilities, including telling them to climb through doggie doors to rob homes, Commissioner Webb told the Today show on Thursday morning.
It comes after the mysterious death of 12-year-old Wayne Russell, who was found with extensive injuries near Wollongong about 2am on Tuesday morning.
Paramedics found him at what is believed to be a friend’s address after being dropped off in a silver car, he was later taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
There are also concerns about the hashtag ‘creeping while you’re sleeping’ – predominately used to show underage motorists driving cars at night – as it continues to go viral on TikTok.
New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb (pictured) has established a new youth crime task force as police and parents express concern for the recent surge in youth crime and online ‘bragging’
‘It concerns me greatly and the commissioners right across Australia that we’ve got young people as young as 12, under 12, being involved in crime,’ Commissioner Webb said as she launched a new youth crime task force.
‘Whether that’s youth crime gangs coming together, young kids coming together using knives, or whether that’s young people breaking into cars, stealing cars, joy riding and using social media platforms to record their exploits and then brag about (them).
‘And that’s creating a movement. So other kids are doing it.’
Concerning online trends promote videos of teenagers appearing to drive around stolen cars in the early hours of morning, with some even boasting about news reports covering teenage crashes.
Commissioner Webb said stamping out youth car-boosting is particularly important for police, as young drivers pose a huge threat to communities.
A stolen black Holden Barina crashed into a traffic light at Towradgi, in Wollongong, south of Sydney, in the early hours of Tuesday morning (pictured)
Commissioner Webb (pictured on the Today Show, Thursday morning) said youth are learning criminal tricks from more experienced malefactors and videos shared by delinquents online
‘They’re 12, they can barely touch the pedals and the steering wheel and see over the dash(board),’ she explained.
‘That is the concern for us, that we’ve got young kids easily influenced and used by older people – whether it’s 17-year-olds or whether that’s actually adults – to commit crime.’
Commissioner Webb said often the stolen cars are used to commit further crimes, noting: ‘a car at speed is a weapon’.
She also said pre-teens are learning criminal tricks from bad influences both on the street and online.
‘We have had 12 year olds go in through a doggie door to steal. A 12-year-old doesn’t learn that on their own. They’re being used to commit serious adult crimes,’ she explained.
‘I guess the concern for us is that they are starting younger and we don’t want to see any kids in jail but certainly, as a community we’ve got to tackle this.’
Twelve-year-old Wayne has been widely mourned after his mysterious midnight death rocked parents around the country.
The young boy who died at a friend’s home in mysterious circumstances on Tuesday morning has been identified as 12-year-old Wayne Russell (above) but what caused his fatal injuries is yet to be determined
Half an hour before paramedics found Wayne, police rushed toward the sound of a huge bang in Towradgi, Wollongong.
However, cops found that any former occupants of the vehicle had fled the vehicle – with only the hulk of a Holden Barina remaining at the scene.
The car had been reported stolen on Saturday afternoon.
Pants paid tributes online and in the Wollongong community for the ‘polite’ young boy.
‘Gone way before your time little buddy! You will be missed by all who met you. A smile that lit a room and the best anyone could have. You were always so polite to me and a good mate to my boys…’ the mother of two of Wayne’s schoolfriends wrote on social media.
Wayne’s parents have revealed even they are not clear of the exact circumstances surrounding his tragic death.
Police rushed to the Towradgi Road crash (above) after the sound ‘like a bomb going off’ reverberated through the streets, but found the car empty, its doors open and the occupants had fled
Carjacking is just one of the many activities glorified in widely circulated TikTok videos, other widely-circulated clips show users showing off the proceeds of purported criminal dealings and weapon ownership.
Along with the launch of the new youth crime task force, Commissioner Webb and top cops from other states are strategising with other agencies to tackle the youth-crime surge.
She said children need a sense of belonging, adding: ‘We want them to belong to something more meaningful like sport or other activity that keeps kids busy’.
‘It’s not a nine to five problem. Most of this activity is at night. We are all at home in bed but they’re out at night, middle of the night.’