Intruders force child lockdown
By RENEE REDMOND
ONE HUNDRED Lismore Vacation Care children were locked inside a hall for protection this week when a group of young intruders refused to leave the grounds.
The Vacation Care children, aged between five and 13, spent an hour inside the hall at the Lismore Public School.
Their carers tried to persuade the 11 intruders to leave the grounds, but the youths, who included girls as young as eight, refused and yelled obscenities at them.
The stand-off continued for nearly an hour, and they left before police arrived.
Lismore Vacation Care coordinator Michelle Allibone said the decision to lock everyone inside was made after the intruders began swearing and name-calling.
"It's a safety policy we have in place at the centre," she said.
Yesterday, the centre was open again and the care workers reported that some of the intruders had returned, but were walking outside the fence perimeter.
Thursday's lockdown followed an incident on Tuesday, when a young girl who was playing basketball with her friend was approached and shoved by a female intruder.
The girl, whose family has asked for her to remain anonymous, said the intruder jumped the fence and began pushing her with both hands saying she had teased her brother.
"I don't know her or her brother and I was relieved to see one of the carers running over to us," she said.
Another Lismore Vacation Care co-ordinator, Heather Cole, said yesterday she thought the group of intruders was just bored and seeking attention.
"I gave them permission slips for their parents to sign so they could come here. Some of the kids have used the service before," she said.
Michelle said police were called on Thursday afternoon, but took an hour to arrive.
"The kids were gone by the time they got here," she said.
"We had members of staff outside to keep an eye on the group, but we needed the police there to get them to move on.
"If nothing is done they're going to just keep hanging around and pushing the boundaries to see how much they can get away with."
Concerned parent Anthony Priest said his four children were among those locked inside the Vacation Care Centre on Thursday.
"I think the staff did the right thing, but the police took far too long to get there," he said.
"It should not have taken more than five or 10 minutes for them to come around and assess the situation.
"It was an important call."
However, Lismore police Sergeant Paul Fredericks said he was unaware of any complaints being made to the station about the response time.
"We prioritise jobs as they come in and we try and get to them as quickly as we can," he said.
Sgt Fredericks said police were endeavouring to increase police patrols around the Lis more Public School.