Vandals leave trail of destruction in Ballina
AS a shop owner, Shane Wehner expects the odd broken window, but Sunday night's rampage by vandals at Ballina Central shopping complex has left him bewildered. "I have owned other shops before but I have never experienced vandalism like this," said Mr Wehner, owner of Off The Wall surf shop. at Ballina Central. During the rampage, 31 laminated glass panels were shattered adding up to an estimated replacement cost of $18,000. Shopkeepers believe a gang of youths used the nozzle of an emergency fire hose they had stretched to its capacity to smash glass panels in five neighbouring stores. Businesses targeted included Starbucks Coffee, a newly fitted out kebab shop owned by Sunshine Kebabs, Off The Wall surf shop and a video shop. Brian Tate, of Ballina, who visits Starbucks regularly for his morning coffee said he had never seen damage like this in Ballina before. "I have gotten to know all the girls here and it's terribly upsetting," he said. "This is city-type stuff and not something you expect in Ballina. "We are getting an increase in what can be described as urban crime and not something you expect in a coastal town." A Sunshine Kebabs spokesman said that while insurance would cover the cost of replacing the windows he was disgusted at the wanton destruction. "I am sure when I was 23-years-old I had better things to do than break windows," he said. "What is amazing is they have gone to the trouble of unravelling the hose to belt the windows. "This is not a ghost town at night so someone must have seen something." Philosophically, Mr Wehner said he was pleased it was not a ram raid. "I can understand a thief having to break a window to steal but this is just crazy," he said. Ballina Central management declined to comment when contacted by The Northern Star yesterday. But a spokesman for the owners of the shopping complex, Mirvac, in Brisbane, said the complex was not yet 12 months old. He was unable to confirm the replacement cost of the windows smashed but said their operations manager would arrive Wednesday to check out the situation. Mirvac is helping police with its investigation by searching through the shopping centre's security video to identify the people responsible for the vandalism.