Kununurra increases airport security as juvenile delinquency spirals into the city

Staff at a North Australian airport have tightened security in response to what local officials say is a credible threat that teenagers could break in and try to catch a plane.

Kununurra Police passed the warning last month to the Wyndham East Kimberley Shire Council, which operates East Kimberley Regional Airport.

Shire President David Menzel said the city council had since stepped up airport security and warned airline operators to be vigilant.

“A lot of cars have been stolen … joyriders … and there was a belief that there might be an attempt to take a plane that [an escalation] of the activities going on, “he said.

“I’m not willing to give away all information about security, but we have certainly stepped it up. It will make it very difficult for people to break the security zone and do something stupid.”

While the authorities considered it highly unlikely that young people would be able to start a plane, they were concerned that equipment could be damaged.

“The point is, they want to be in a security-controlled area,” Cr Menzel said.

The airport services a range of aircraft from passenger aircraft to small aircraft used for tourism, recreation and agricultural purposes.

‘System failure’

The warning came amid a rise in car thefts and ram attacks in the region during October.

Cr Menzel said the need to address airport security was a low point as the city struggled with juvenile delinquency.

“It certainly points to a fault in the system. This is not acceptable. It would not be acceptable in a metropolitan area,” he said.

The wing of an airplane next to a runway with Kununurra landscapes in the distance
Authorities have responded to credible information that teenagers may be trying to break into Kununurra airport. (ABC News: Courtney Fowler)

Kununurra’s juvenile delinquency peaked in 2019 before falling sharply when COVID-19 hit last year, but those gains may have been lost by the end of this year.

According to WA crime statistics, a car has been reported stolen every three days on average this year in a city of just over 5,000 people.

Cr Menzel praised the city’s many agencies, which tried to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, but said more work needed to be done at the political level.

“I believe these agencies are doing a significant job in the community and it would be much worse without the interactions the agencies have with our young people,” he said.

“There’s obviously so much of this [crime] goes on and on and what we do is not enough.

“It is very easy to blame the state for all our social problems, but in the end it is they who have the statutory obligations.”


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