By Mandy Oakham
Pakington Street retailers have been urged to form a traders’ association to help fight rising crime rates in the area.
A group of around 60 residents and retailers have met at Geelong West Town Hall for a crime forum led by Acting Police Superintendent Graham Banks.
The forum was also attended by South Barwon MP Andrew Katos and former mayor Darren Lyons.
The forum was addressed by president of the Ocean Grove business association Ty Simons, who told retailers about a local crime prevention strategy which had reduced the rate of break ins and burglaries from around three a week in his area, to almost no crime at all.
Supt Banks said it was the first time a non-police person had been asked to address a crime forum.
“This is an excellent example of how the community can work together with the police to bring down crime rates,” Supt Banks said.
The forum was told it was essential that traders were able to quickly communicate among themselves and also that a traders association would ensure that police could get messages out to retailers very quickly.
Acting Inspector Rob Wilby told concerned residents that police were confident that they now had the gang responsible for the spate of recent burglaries and break-ins in the Pakington Street area and that crime in the Newtown end of the street had also “significantly dropped”.
Although the forum was told that the statistics for crimes such as theft and assault had gone down in the last quarter, some retailers in the audience said that the real crime issues in Pakington Street had increased dramatically since March this year and therefore were not showing up in the statistics yet.
All of the police panel members repeated that the Geelong area did not experience the same crimes as people were watching on their television news at night.
Acting Inspector Rob Wilby said that while aggravated burglaries, which by definition are a break-in when someone is in the home, had increased in recent years, actual assaults on people in their homes was “very, very rare” in the Geelong area.
“When assaults occur the people are known to each other either through things like domestic violence issues or drug-related issues,” Acting Inspector Wilby said.
But one of the business owners at the forum, Mary Resic of the Secretskin beauty salon, was not reassured. Mary says there have been two break-ins, and another two attempted break-ins, to her salon since February this year.
She has had to seek counselling because of the stress involved in dealing with the continuous crime threat and Mary calculates that crime has cost her to date almost $10,000.
“I am angry and I have done everything the police have advised us to do and they are still trying to smash my door in and take my money that I work very, very hard to earn,” a distressed Mary said.
“The problem is these kids who are on the streets and who have no respect for anyone or anything and they have never been taught how to work.
“We need to get rid of these kids off our streets and if that means sending them to a camp in the middle of Australia where they do hard labour then so be it.”