Calls to help disengaged teenagers

OPERATION Newstart Victoria executive officer Phil Wheatley is calling on the government to help disengaged young people get back on track.

The call comes after the closure of award-winning crime prevention program Operation Newstart in Central Victoria.

"We see the need in Bendigo as being critical and we think the state government, Victoria Police and other community agencies need to pull together and collaborate to make sure safety nets are not removed," Mr Wheatley said.

"The cost for running Operation Newstart is very, very small.

"It's a very cost efficient organisation and it has serviced the needs of hundreds of young people in Bendigo since June 2011.

"These are people who otherwise may become perpetrators of crime, they might otherwise become victims of crime."

Nearly 100 young people from Bendigo, Castlemaine and Kyneton communities have participated into the program since 2011. 

Shadow Minister for Police Wade Noonan is calling on Minister for Police Kim Wells to meet with leaders of the program and provide support. 

"Sadly the Bendigo program and the Frankston program are the first two Operation Newstart programs to cease since the announcement by police late last year to withdraw from operational involvement late last year," Mr Noonan said.

"The reason police have done that is because they want to shift those resources to frontline policing.

"While every community appreciates and acknowledges the importance of frontline policing, I think most communities would also appreciate that where crime can be prevented through well-targeted programs that those investments are worth making.

"I used the last sitting week for Parliament to ask the minister for police to sit down with the leaders of Operation Newstart and determine whether anything else can be done in order to keep the program going."

Mr Noonan said keeping young people in school and away from crime was very important.

“I urge the Police Minister Kim Wells not to abandon our at-risk youth.”

The state government has been contacted for comment on Monday.

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