WALLSEND business owners say they are at breaking point as they combat a spate of brazen teenage crime.
Several business owners told the Newcastle Herald property crime in the western Newcastle suburb was “the worst it has ever been”, and told frightening tales of how shops and cars had been robbed in broad daylight, public property vandalised and threats made against people in the street.
Nelson Street florist Alyn Miranda said there was a feeling in Wallsend that businesses were fighting a losing battle against a handful of repeat offenders. Some are as young as 12.
He calls them the “2287 gang” after the “2287” graffiti tag that is scrawled across the suburb.
“We know who they are,” he said.
“They are a little gang that goes from shop to shop, causing trouble wherever they go, but for whatever reason they are still out there.
“They are too young to lock up.”
Mr Miranda, who volunteers as a Rotarian to help tidy up the suburb, said “just about every shop in the main street has been broken into”.
WATCHING AND WAITING: A sign to warn would-be thugs of a surveillance camera on Council Street.
“Before it was about money, now they just want to cause maximum damage,” he said.
“They have no pride in the place they live.”
Silvias Takeaway shop owner Despina Konidaris said vandalism and theft occurred “almost every day”.
She said no security measures she put in place could stop them.
“We have a new fence up the back. They just tore it down,” Ms Konidaris said.
“We have security cameras, we have alarms – it doesn’t stop them. They will try and steal from us while we’re still here.”
Ms Konidaris pleaded with authorities to act.
“I don’t know what else we can do,” she said.
A sign of their desperation, some businesses have plastered grainy CCTV images of children they allege to have stolen from them on the walls of their shop.
NOT ON: Alyn Miranda and Philip Gorton help to clean up Wallsend.
“Do you know these thieves?” one sign reads.
Janette Neal, of Wilsons Chemist, said she was frustrated by an apparent lack of action.
Others criticised response times and called for the reopening of the Wallsend police station.
“I’ve been here 30 years and this is the worst I’ve seen it,” Ms Neal said.
“Something needs to be done.”
Another prominent Nelson Street business owner, who declined to be named because he feared reprisal attacks, said “some of the kids around here can be pretty bloody nasty”.
“They have no respect,” he said.
“The problem I see, and I don’t blame the cops for this, is there’s no consequence for these kids.
“If I take it into my own hands, I get charged.”
Wallsend still safe: top cop
POLICE have increased patrols in Wallsend in response to escalating crime, Newcastle’s top cop Superintendent Brett Greentree said.
It comes amid heightened concern from business owners in the area who say a teenage rampage has seen nearly every shop in the main street robbed.
Superintendent Greentree acknowledged that crime had increased in the western Newcastle suburb, particularly property crime and steal from vehicle offences, over the New Year and Christmas period.
He said police in recent weeks had made a number of “significant” arrests and were increasing patrols in the suburb.
“These types of crime do have an impact on people,” Mr Greentree said.
“It creates a perception that the community is not safe, but I do want to stress that Wallsend is a safe community.
“We are doing everything we can … and I look forward to meeting with the business community to discuss their concerns.”
Mr Greentree stressed the importance of the Young Offender’s Act and its aims.
FRUSTRATED: A Wallsend chemist has plastered CCTV images of thieves who have robbed the store in an attempt to catch them. Police say there has been a spike in property crime and stealing from vehicles.
He said it was appropriate that some young people are first dealt with by way of cautioning and youth justice conferencing.
“The way I look at it is, would you want your son to have a criminal record at 14 or 15?” he said.
“That can have consequences for the rest of their lives.”
Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery said she believed instances of crime had cooled in recent weeks compared with Christmas time.
On December 22, a suspicious blaze broke out in the former squash courts late at night, engulfing and eventually destroying the structure.
Many believe the fire to be a turning point in the suburb’s resolve to combat instances of crime.
Ms Hornery said her phone had been ringing hot with calls from business owners concerned about the spike.
She said she was still a firm believer in reopening the Wallsend police station as a means to increase the presence of police in the community.
“The philosophy was [when it closed] super stations were more effective,” she said.
“That may work in the big cities, but I don’t believe it works in regional and rural areas. Wallsend deserves its own police station.”
Both Ms Hornery and Mr Greentree believed crime in Wallsend was under-reported.
Source: The Herald