The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is grappling with a rise in hooning, with its police force employing a criminal psychologist and its Legislative Assembly launching an inquiry.
“It seems to be post lockdown, after COVID, we’ve seen an increase in this sort of risky, dangerous behaviour,” Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan, ACT’s Chief Police Officer, told ABC News.
“We’ve actually engaged a criminal psychologist to look at some of the reasons why people are doing it and thinking about how we can divert kids.
“You know, I’m keen on trying to keep people out of the criminal justice system.”
He flagged the greater use of cameras and the potential use of drones in tracking offending vehicles.
Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said hooning is a daily occurrence in the Territory, even during the daytime, and drivers have been evading capture by driving on the wrong side of the road – something ACT Police are restricted from doing.
“There’s literally thousands of kilometres of roads in Canberra, and particularly if we find these things are occurring in the evening when we’re busy responding to other things such as family violence matters, we simply just don’t have the resources to get to every location on time,” he said.
“So coming up with other other ways of dealing with the matter is important and that’s why I welcome the inquiry.”
The ACT Legislative Assembly’s inquiry was launched on August 4, 2022 and is accepting submissions until September 30.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety will look at a raft of factors related to dangerous driving, including the police response (both in prevention and following crashes), as well as the criminal justice response and the sentences and penalties handed down to offenders.
It also aims to look at the capacity of trauma and support services following crashes, plus the effectiveness of rehabilitation and driver re-education.
While road deaths aren’t exclusively the result of what’s referred to as “anti-social driving”, the overall road toll in the ACT is currently sitting at 10 deaths in 2022.
With several months left in the year, that could see the Territory have its deadliest year since 2015 when it recorded 15 deaths.
ACT Policing, part of the Australian Federal Police responsible for policing the Territory, says it proactively targets “burnout and anti-social driving ‘blackspots’ using an intelligence-led policing approach”, with members of the public able to call or report online if they see this activity happening.
Police can seize vehicles for offences like street racing, burnouts and menacing driving for up to 90 days for a first offence.
If you get caught again, the Court may order your vehicle to be forfeited to the Territory.
Police in Queensland also have the power to confiscate vehicles for such offences, but it recently rolled out a new online portal allowing you to upload photos and video of driving offences – something being referred to as “dob in a hoon”.