The Bal-Boyz: Ballina's young crims
They may be a long way from Sydney's Maroubra - home of cult surf gang Bra-Boyz - but the local youths, some believed to be as young as 12, have targeted ABC Demolitions and Asbestos Removal four times in the past eight weeks leaving owner Barry Curtis fuming.
Police have said Ballina does not have a youth gang problem and have warned locals against overreacting to isolated incidents.
But Mr Curtis is calling for harsher punishments for youths who break the law. He wants parents, as well as their children, to be held accountable.
"I'm really fed up, it's just shocking to think that these young kids are doing so many break-and-enters," he said. "Most people around town know of the Bal-Boyz and what they get up to. The kids are obviously proud of it, their graffiti is like a badge of honour.
"We need to get them off the streets or they're just going to keep doing it again and again."
Mr Curtis believes the same group has targeted his scrapyard four times; the first about two months ago when they broke through the wire fence at the rear of the Southern Cross Industrial Estate premises, then smashed the door of the office before stealing a small amount of cash.
About two weeks later they broke in and stole power tools valued at $4000, plus chainsaws from a storage room, leaving their mark with bright red spray painted 'Bal-Boyz' tags on walls and furniture.
Then last Saturday they stole Mr Curtis' grandson's Yamaha 100 motorbike, which police later retrieved, arresting a 15-year-old youth.
"I must take my hat off to the police who found our motorbike so quickly," Mr Curtis said
Then yesterday morning the youths cut the padlocks off a storage shed, but Mr Curtis said they had not stolen anything, assuming they must have been startled by passers-by.
Mr Curtis believes the group has targeted other businesses in the area, but Ballina Police Inspector Greg Moore said there had only been one reported incident involving the 'Bal-Boyz' graffiti: the one at Mr Curtis' business.
The Northern Star has spoken to another business owner who said they had been hit by the Bal-Boyz, but declined to be quoted.
"Police are aware that from time-to-time kids gather and consider themselves as some sort of gang," Insp Moore said. "But it's nothing like the organised crime in the US. Ballina doesn't have a youth gang problem, just isolated incidents involving youths."
The rate of break-and-enters in Ballina had dropped dramatically in recent months and Ballina's arrest rate for such offences was the highest in the local police command he said.
Whether the 'Bal-Boyz' are a gang or not, Mr Curtis says 'kids under 16 just seem to get away with it because they can't be charged like adults'.
But Insp Moore said police were required to deal with juvenile offenders under the Young Offenders Act, which he said gave kids the opportunity to be rehabilitated.
"If they fit the criteria they can get a caution or go through youth conferencing," he said. "They're not automatically placed before the court."