MacDonnell Regional Council concerned about surge in crime in Papunya

MacDonnell Regional Council has expressed concern about a series of break-ins and vandalism in the remote community of Papunya, about 240 kilometers northwest of Alice Springs.

Police have charged three children with allegedly breaking into the council building, school and community store and causing extensive damage on Friday night.

Two of the alleged perpetrators, aged 13 and 14, remain in police custody pending court appearance in May and June.

A 12-year-old boy has been released on bail and will appear in court later in May.

Police were still looking for another person believed to have been involved in the burglaries.

The ransacked town hall building

MacDonnell Regional Council chief executive Jeff MacLeod said the council building was ransacked, with smashed computer equipment and graffiti on the walls and floor.

He said some packages being held at the residents’ office had been opened and their contents “strewn around the plaza”.

Mr MacLeod also said electronic screens in the council building which were used to access Centrelink services had been sprayed with acrylic paint and would need to be replaced.

“We’ve spoken to Services Australia; they’ve been very understanding. They don’t penalize anyone who can’t get in touch with them this week,” he said.

Increase in burglaries and thefts

Mr MacLeod said the number of burglaries in communities along the West MacDonnell Ranges had slowly increased since Christmas.

He said the Papunya aged care center was robbed about six weeks ago and the offenders allegedly stole a bus which they drove about 150 kilometers to Hermannsburg.

MacDonnell Regional Council has lost staff due to security concerns.(ABC RN: Rhiannon Stevens)

MacLeod said there have been about 30 referrals to families in the territory about young people abusing dangerous substances, including sniffing gasoline.

Losing community service providers

Mr MacLeod said three staff members employed by the MacDonnell Regional Council in Papunya had recently resigned.

“There have been disturbing entries into [staff] houses at night – so it’s very disturbing of course,” he said.

The council was adding extra security measures to staff accommodation, but Mr MacLeod said it was ‘impossible’ to recruit new staff.

He said senior members of the community had assisted police with their investigations and were concerned about crime in their community.

“They are very keen to get involved and end this terrible situation because it is starting to affect everyone very, very badly.”

Elna M. Lemons