Bruce Thomas

Ballina streets 'out of control'

A BALLINA security guard believes it is only a matter of time before the nightly mayhem on the streets of the town leads to someone being killed.

The man, who wants to remain anonymous, has worked in security for nearly 20 years. He said the levels of violence and abuse he regularly witnessed were the worst he had ever seen. And it was largely juveniles involved, he said, who felt they were beyond the reach of the law.

“The ferocity of the fights with kids under the influence of drugs and alcohol is scary. Some resemble scenes of wild animals on TV,” he said.

Teenagers stealing and driving around in cars and heavy vehicles were ‘an accident waiting to happen, probably to some poor innocent motorist’.

He stressed such incidents were not confined to Ballina but occurred all over the Far North Coast.
“I’ve had mountain bikes thrown at me at youth week events in Mullumbimby.”

The problems are not a result of poor policing, he believes, but are caused by failures in the legal system, in education and in parental negligence.

“The police officers in Ballina are an awesome bunch, and they are fed up dealing with the same kids every week.”

Police Inspector Bill McKenna said police were always concerned when public feedback indicated negative perceptions about crime trends.

Insp McKenna said figures released to police on Friday  showed Ballina had actually experienced a 12 per cent drop in non-domestic assaults in the past 12 months and a ‘downward trend’ in break, enter and steal offences in the Richmond Local Area Command.

“We are concerned, however, about incidents of malicious and mindless damage to other people’s property,” Insp McKenna said.

“Also of concern are incidents of alcohol-related and anti-social behaviour on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Insp McKenna said police were addressing these problems by practicing ‘high visibility policing’ in trouble spots such as licensed premises at closing time.

Some of the town incidents the security guard said included:

* Children as young as 14 stealing cars and heavy vehicles and driving on the roads.
* Being ambushed by six teenagers brandishing lumps of wood when he stopped to help another who was lying in the gutter as a decoy.
* A man being stabbed in the neck by a teenager.
* In the last month, an attempt to steal a large flatbed truck by ramming it through gates.
* Burglaries at several industrial premises and malicious damage.
* The toilets in Ballina Skate Park being set on fire last week.
* Many other instances of damage to private property, including elderly peoples’ homes.

This list was only a sample of the damage, graffiti and drunken violence he witnessed every weekend and some week nights in River Street and surrounding streets, the guard said.

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