THE growing crime wave that is spreading throughout our nation has not missed the Home Hill region with reports in recent months of cars being stolen and vandalism resulting in rising costs for innocent members of the community.
However, the local community is not sitting back and taking what is being dished out by the young criminals, as a meeting held in the town in August moved to follow in the footsteps of the town’s predecessors and set up patrols to watch out for possible problem areas.
Many years ago, a crime wave in Home Hill was met with the formation of patrols by local residents, who took turns in looking out for problem areas and, working in conjunction with the local Police officers, would phone the officers when they saw a problem and any situation was handled by the officers.
Following the theft of a number of cars in the Home Hill town area, one of the victims decided to take action to try and rectify the situation by calling a meeting of town residents to put forward his experiences with alleged offenders.
Home Hill engineering business owner, Karl Vass told the gathering of over 100 residents that he was working late at his workshop at around 6.30pm when he couldn’t find his keys when he went to lock up the shed.
“I had a spare key in my office and grabbed that and headed home without much thought to it, as I figured that I had left my keys somewhere in the workshop,” he said.
“That night I was woken by a phone call at 10.29pm from the police reporting my work vehicle was left in the middle of the highway at Rossiter’s Hill.”
Mr Vass said he quickly drove into town to check the workshop where the yard gate had been driven through with the work vehicle.
“Police removed the vehicle from the road and I had it towed to the mechanic the next day,” he said, where it needed a new gearbox and clutch.
Mr Vass said he was told Police had arrested four youths the next day, with three let off with warnings and another one arrested as he had numerous warnings before.
Through his own investigations, Mr Vass said he had found out the names of the alleged offenders.
He concluded by telling the crowd that “the system is not working”.
“We are a proud community, who have a small percentage of the population tarnishing our reputation and I think, with a little help from all, we can stop this problem so that our community can feel safe again,” he said.
“I for one will be doing all in my power to keep our small but supportive community safe.”
Mr Vass reported several instances where businesses had experienced problem areas in the town including but not limited to:
- Youths hanging around the front of a shop harassing customers
- A business having to keep the door locked to keep unwanted youth out and then are harassed through the window
- The ice machine at a business suffering $10K from someone urinating over the machine, as well as vandalism
- A fire started in the stairway of a business and thousands of dollars having to be spent to install roller shutters to keep them out
The call for support from the community drew an excellent response from residents of the town, including business owners and people who have been affected by criminal activity.
It was alleged that the town’s IGA had been broken into three times while another resident said that the kids were not getting the message and suggested a curfew could be brought in.
Police officers from Home Hill, Ayr and the Ayr CIB were present at the meeting and provided comments in response to suggestions put forward from the crowd. Several speakers made it clear that they were supportive of the Police efforts in the area.
Member for Burdekin, Dale Last was unable to be present at the meeting, because he was in Brisbane where Parliament was sitting.
However, he did have his staff at the meeting and in his report in this issue of The Home Hill News he commented that he had attended a meeting with the organiser prior to the event to listen and discuss the issues and possible solutions at hand for the Home Hill community.
Other comments from the people in the crowd included suggestions that ‘Police are doing their job but there is no penalty for what happens’, other business operators had been left with thousands of dollars of damage; and ‘the IGA are copping the brunt of it’.
A Police Officer said they could not put a curfew on the children, as had been suggested, as a curfew was used in other states but that was not the case in Queensland.
A member of the crowd said people were scared about the situation, with a suggestion that social media was to blame.
The audience raised the point of the patrols that were used in the town more than 10 years ago, which were successful.
It was suggested that they start a night watch against the offenders – “in the past, they had the phone numbers of local police officers and if something happened, they called them – It did work”.
One person questioned ‘what an eight-year-old would be doing in his yard in the early hours of the morning’ and suggested that “They’ve got more rights than everyone else”.
Mark Vass asked who in the crowd would be willing to join a night watch, resulting in a large proportion of those present putting their hands up.
However, the Police officers present warned that they had to be careful of not going down the road of vigilantism – “We don’t want to be charging any of you,” a detective commented.
That drew a comment that “We’ve got no rights – the system is rotten to the core – something has got to happen”.
Questions were asked about what rights the people had if they went on a night watch – but police responded that it depended on the circumstances – they could defend themselves but it had to be reasonable.
A Detective said security was a major issue in the community and as police officers, they are also victims.
“We cannot answer a lot of questions in a public forum – you have to be so careful.”
A lot of people in the crowd were passionate about the need for something to be done and Police indicated that they wanted to work with the community.
Another suggestion referred to the housing shortage in Townsville, resulting in people in the city moving down to the Burdekin.
The meeting ended with members of the crowd queueing to place their names on the list for the patrols of the town and on the day after the meeting, Karl Vass reported that 80 responses had been received from people wishing to be involved in the patrols with more coming in through texts.