by Matt Goss
SYDNEY, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- A youth crime crisis which has swept Victoria has made the state the car theft capital of Australia.
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABC) on Friday revealed that nearly 18,000 cars were stolen in Victoria in the financial year ending in June 2016.
The 18,000 thefts were the most of any Australian state or territory and more than double the number of thefts in New South Wales (NSW) despite NSW having a population 22 percent greater than that of Victoria.
"Theft of motor vehicles has spiked in Victoria in recent years, but Victorians should be assured: the number of offenders being processed for stealing cars has massively increased by 111.8 per cent over the past five years, and by 45.6 per cent over the past 12 months," a Victoria Police spokeswoman told News Limited on Friday.
Victoria also lead the way for items stolen from a motor vehicle with 83,700 reported incidents compared to 57,300 in NSW.
Overall, crime in Victoria went up nine percent on the previous year as authorities try to combat a mounting youth crime wave lead by notorious violent street gang Apex.
As well as combatting youth gangs, the state has also found itself in a youth detention crisis after a number of violent riots and breakouts from the state's two biggest youth detention facilities in the past 12 months has put intense pressure on Premier Daniel Andrews.
The ABS figures came as Andrew Bruun, CEO of the Youth Support Advocacy Service (YSAS), said while the overall number of youth offenders had dropped, a small group was continuing to commit serious crimes.
Bruun said his organization was struggling to keep up with the demand for youth workers in Victoria and a government funding boost was needed.
"The Government already does fund youth outreach workers who focus on young people with alcohol and drug problems," Bruun told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday.
"It's just that is nowhere near enough to meet the current need."
YSAS has six teams across Victoria but Bruun said that was nowhere near enough.
"All of them have full caseloads at the moment, so we're working at capacity right now. If we put another 10 workers on they would have full caseloads tomorrow," he said.
Bruun said additional youth workers would help to address the underlying causes of the youth crime wave such as substance abuse, neglect, unemployment and homelessness.
"While they exist (the underlying problems) there will always be young people turning to drugs for answers," he said.
Karen Hallem, a senior researcher with YSAS, said that of 850 young people between the ages of 14 and 26 the organization recently surveyed, almost half were dependent on cannabis and 11 percent on alcohol.
"The narrative in the community at the moment is really focusing on party drugs, ecstasy and MDMA," Hallem said.
"We don't think of alcohol and cannabis as being particularly damaging... but in reality they're the things that are really pulling these kids down."
Lisa Neville, Victoria's Police Minister, told News Limited that the government was concerned about the crisis.
"We're putting more than (1.5 billion US dollars) into new resources for Victoria Police and introducing the reforms needed to turn this... around," she said.