Adelaide Vicar General in new crime fighting initiative

Adelaide archdiocese's Vicar General Msgr David Cappo will meet with crime victims as well as the families of young gang members at the centre of a suburban crime spree after being asked by the state government to develop a plan to address Aboriginal youth crime.

Msgr Cappo says his main focus will be young offenders targeted by the police force's Operation Mandrake but concedes the job will be difficult and that "we're going to have to go back to the drawing board".

According to Adelaide Now, the so-called "Gang of 49", mainly youths from the northwestern suburbs, are responsible for hundreds of crimes over the past few years, including violent home invasions and high-speed chases.

Msgr Cappo, who is head of the state's social inclusion board, will begin consulting the Aboriginal community within weeks. He hopes to make recommendations to Premier Mike Rann in two months.

"I have received a briefing from the assistant police commissioner about Operation Mandrake," Msgr Cappo said.

"It's a very serious issue around some very chronic behaviour that we are seeing with this particular group of Aboriginal youth. Here we have a very serious core group of offenders who are really falling though the net completely. Our systems are not working with this group, so we're going to have to go back to the drawing board and find new ways."

Apart from the meetings, Msgr Cappo said he plans to set up a website and hotline for community comment.

"There's no magic answer to these issues and it's going to be very, very important for me to listen to the Aboriginal community," he said.

Msgr Cappo said tougher penalties and policing were not the only answers to solving Aboriginal crime problems.

"We know that it requires very, very specific intervention," he said.

"Just a heavy hand doesn't work. We've got to look at other ways of connecting this group of Aboriginal people, mainly Aboriginal lads."

Members of the Aboriginal community said it was important they played a key role in solving the problems.

"We, as a community, are equally concerned about the alleged criminal behaviour of the 49," says Aboriginal leader Tauto Sansbury.

Cappo joins crime fight">Cappo joins crime fight (Adelaide Now, 5/2/07)

Catholic social justice advocates prominent in honours list (CathNews, 29/1/07)

Policing with compassion (Adelaide Now, 5/2/07)
Youth crime crisis 'can be fixed' (Adelaide Now, 5/2/07)

5 Feb 2007