Officer in Charge of the Bundaberg Road Policing Unit Sergeant Marty Arnold.
Officer in Charge of the Bundaberg Road Policing Unit Sergeant Marty Arnold.

‘Never ending battle’: daily hooning investigations

POLICING hooning activity in Bundaberg has been described as “a never ending battle” by Officer-in-Charge of the Bundaberg Road Policing Unit Sergeant Marty Arnold.

On average, Sgt Arnold said police receive more than 37 formal complaints about hooning each month in Bundaberg alone.

And that is people who have called and made a formal complaint only, it doesn’t include the numerous anonymous calls.

In Queensland so far this year there have been 847 formal complaints about hooning.

“In Bundaberg it is almost a daily occurrence where a motorist is investigated for hooning behaviour,” he said.

“Particularly on Thursday-Saturday nights when hooning activity is elevated.

“It is not unusual for police to impound multiple vehicles over a weekend and issue thousands of dollars in fines.”

Sgt Arnold said hooning was a dangerous activity usually committed by inexperienced, immature drivers easily influenced by peer group pressure who over estimate their skill behind the wheel.

“It is a common occurrence to be called to locations where hoons have caused traffic crashes through dangerous acts and losing control of their vehicle,” he said.

Sgt Arnold said police were committed to resolving hooning issues but for every offender they prosecute two more get their licences that same day.

“While overall hooning has not increased from pre COVID-19 figures there is a perception of a recent increase as during COVID-19 the restrictions prevented many of these offenders driving around thus there was a huge decline in hooning activity which returned to normal once restrictions were relaxed,” he said.

“The most recent case of hooning was an offender who was detected doing a large burnout on [Monday].

“This offender will face the possibility of the loss of his vehicle, fines that can exceed $1000 and with a poor traffic record could expect loss of license.”

While there are a variety of hooning offences ranging from street racing, dangerous operation, careless driving or burn outs, the fines are quite substantial and can include loss of license and confiscation of a vehicle initially for 90 days but then permanent forfeiture for repeat offenders.

“Industrial areas and arterial suburban roads seem to feature very prominently as hooning drivers sometimes numbering up to 40 vehicles lap around and look for locations they can quickly do their hooning activities and then disappear prior to police arrival,” he said.

Sgt Arnold said Johanna Bvd, Takalvan St and Bourbong St were prominent complaint areas.

And while police try to patrol known areas, he said many hooning groups are organised into clubs who actively engage scanners and spotters for police so they can often be forewarned police are on the way.

Police rely on intelligence gathering to identify repeat offenders and tasking of patrols to known hooning and complaint areas utilising a variety of unmarked and marked police patrols. He said camera technology is also used where available and any evidential dash camera footage.

Using CCTV for intelligence and in some cases evidence, more cameras wouldn’t go astray when it comes to policing hooning activity.

“What most people don’t realise is the ability to charge or fine a driver is not as simple as someone ringing up with a rego number or dropping in some dash camera footage,” he said.

“This evidence must be suitable for court presentation so it would involve the person who witnessed the incident or supplied any footage to give a formal statement and be prepared to give that evidence in court as it is essential when police don’t actually witness the incident in person.

Sgt Arnold said police would also like to send a message to those who participate or are thinking of participating in hooning to carefully “consider the following before doing something stupid:

  • “Consider the poor residents that have to listen to your unwanted noise pollution night after night sometimes into the early hours of the morning.
  • “Is that burnout or race worth you losing your car, licence and probably your job if you need either of those for work?
  • “What you are doing is not cool, skilful or brave, its immature and dangerous.
  • “There are numerous examples of hooning each week on the news that result in tragic and often fatal consequences and affect both the victims and offenders for the rest of their lives.
  • “Becoming a hoon is a very expensive pastime. After checking the history of a recent recidivist hoon I dealt with, I calculated he had spent over $7,000 in fines over about 3 years as well as losing his vehicle and driver’s license.
  • “Hooning penalties are severe. If you are caught racing, doing burnouts or any of the prescribed hooning offences, that $20,000 sporty car you are so proud of will be taken off you and sold at auction leaving you with no car and no doubt a car loan you will still have to pay off.
  • “If you come under our constant attention by hooning or loitering in areas frequented by hoons we make no apologies. We will target you with zero tolerance if you step out of line. We don’t give warnings in hooning hot spots or complaint locations.”

Sgt Arnold encouraged the public to report hooning activity to the Hoonline 134-666, or for serious matters happening at the time, call PoliceLink on 131-444.

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