'Knee-jerk' crime-busting NT budget sparks concern

Record-breaking investment in Northern Territory police and prisons won't reduce crime and risks overburdening the justice system, lawyers say.

The NT's tough-on-crime budget on Tuesday included its largest-ever boost for policing, with an extra $570 million over five years and an additional $156 million to expand the territory's prisons.

It promises to put hundreds of more officers on the beat, build and upgrade prisons in Darwin and Alice Springs and pay for the expected rise in inmate numbers in a bid to tackle growing crime rates and anti-social behaviour across the NT.

But the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency says more police and prisons are not the answer to tackling crime in the NT and could make the problem worse.

“More police and prisons are a band-aid solution that won’t improve outcomes for the individual or the broader community," Principal Legal Officer Jared Sharp said on Wednesday.

The agency said the NT was facing significant law and order challenges and evidence-based solutions were needed.

These include intensive support programs, diversion, education, and related services, "not knee-jerk reactions".

Mr Sharp was critical of the lack of extra funding in the budget for courts and legal services, despite both "struggling to meet increasing demand".

“History and common sense tell us that if we put more police on the streets and increase prison capacity, more people are going to come into contact with the criminal justice system," he said.

The peak body for the community sector, the NT Council of Social Services, echoed the concerns, saying there was no additional community sector funding in the budget for solutions proven to benefit community safety.

These include increased investment in drug and alcohol programs, mental health services, community youth programs and workforce education in these areas.

“It provides a false sense of security to Territorians, that community safety will be achieved only by more police and prisons,” chief executive Sally Sievers said.

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