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Shopping centre genius trick to reduce juvenile crime after spike in offences led to police blitz

A decision to switch off the Wi-Fi at a far north Queensland shopping centre has led to a dramatic reduction in youth crime like bag-snatching and shoplifting.

The lack of free internet has driven away large groups of teenagers who would congregate at Stockland Cairns in Earlville. 

Police launched the initiative two months ago as part of specialist blitz targeting crime hot spots, overseen by the Greater Cairns Taskforce.     

Far North police Acting Superintendent Steve Kersley told the Cairns Post they have seen a drastic reduction in youth offending at the centre since the blitz began.

The lack of free internet has apparently driven away large groups of teenagers who would congregate at Stockland Cairns in Earlville (pictured) in far north Queensland 

'Our information from staff working at Earlville was they had a significant problem with youths hanging around in big groups,' he said.

'They were gathering around in various locations where they can get some Wi-Fi.

'(Since it was switched off) they've stopped hanging around in large groups like they were and we haven't had a bag snatch in quite a while.'

A spokesperson for the Stockland told the Daily Mail Australia a decision was made to reduce the availability of Wi-fi outside operational hours. 

Police say the shopping centre at Earlville had faced a significant problem with youths hanging around in big groups (stock image)

'We have been working closely with local police to improve Stockland Cairns and a number of measures have been put in place in recent months including, increasing police presence, additional security patrols, and reducing Wi-Fi operation hours among others,' the spokesperson said.

'The free Wi-Fi at Stockland Cairns remains available for customer use only during trading hours, it is switched off once the centre closes. 

'We continue to work closely with police, our retailers and the local community to improve the centre experience for our customers and tenants, and have found subtle changes to centre operations has had a positive impact on incidents of anti-social behaviour,' the spokesperson said.  

The Greater Cairns Taskforce has recorded a seven per cent drop in break-ins and a 3.5% drop in thefts from vehicles since its launch on November 11, 2019.  

The operation was set up in an effort to tackle youth crime in the city's suburbs.

An earlier initiative to target young offending in the city created an unintended domino effect that increased youth crime in the suburbs, particularly around shopping centers.