Alstonville may not get cops for six weeks: MP
Wednesday 4.37pm: BALLINA MP Tamara Smith has weighed in on the issue of teenage louts running amok in Alstonville, saying it could be another six weeks before police officers were assigned to the town.
Ms Smith said she wrote to the NSW Police Commissioner in May about the absence of a police presence in Alstonville and the situation that has led to two officers being on long term leave at Alstonville Police Station, leaving it effectively unmanned.
"Earlier this year I wrote to the NSW Police Commissioner Michael Fuller about concerns that police officers are not being replaced while on long term leave or on maternity leave in my electorate and across regional NSW," Ms Smith said.
"Can you imagine any other professionals being asked to shoulder the workload of their colleagues and taking extra shifts because a fellow employee is on sick leave or having a baby?
"There should be enough permanent police officers in a Local Area Command to allow for officers being on sick leave and for what should be celebrated - an officer having a baby."
Ms Smith said the Commissioner referred her letter to the Minister for Police, Troy Grant, who she said told her it was the responsibility of the Local Area Command to ensure there are an adequate number of on-duty police officers to meet demand.
"The Commissioner, through his reform of the NSW Police Force, must look carefully at regional policing because the traditional formula for staffing commands is not working and has the bizarre effect of officers not being replaced when they are on leave. This is not the Area Commander's problem to fix, it is a state-wide police staffing issue," she said.
"The Richmond Local Area Command has assured me that two police officers will be assigned to Alstonville as soon as the human resources arrangements can be put in place, which they told my office a few weeks ago would take about two months.
"I will be happy to take a petition from Alstonville - Wollongbar residents to NSW Parliament to highlight how the systemic issues of policing in NSW are causing real concern for people living in areas like Alstonville without replacement police staff," Ms Smith said.
Wednesday 11.25am: ONE resident has gone to the measure of stripping the green fruit from his tree to stop Alstonville hoodlums from using them as missiles.
Talk of vigilante action to curb the behaviour of a gang of teenage louts threatening people in Alstonville is getting louder and more probable.
Ballina's local councillor Eoin Johnston said he had spoken with people in the Alstonville Hotel on Friday evening, expressing their anger and frustration at the situation where a gang of juveniles have been terrorising the town.
Cr Johnston, who lives on the Alstonville Plateau, said the town's residents are sick and tired of the increasingly serious behaviour of the teenagers.
"I heard people talking in the pub on Friday night, these are good and decent people who have had a gutful of it," he said.
"I think this has got to the stage where the frustration of physically-minded people are upset that ladies like Susie Whiteman, a defenceless lady over 60 trying to do good work for the community, is being terrorised."
A former barrister, Cr Johnston said he respected the police and understood they had their own difficulties, but he fears the community is at the point of taking matters into their own hands.
He said the police justifying the unstaffed police station because of sick leave was no excuse for leaving the town undefended.
"I respect the police and the fact they have complications manning certain places, but this is serious," he said.
"The two men appointed to Alstonville have been on indefinite sick leave, well if you had a teacher off on sick leave you would not be leaving the class unattended for days on end. And for the police to be able to say they can respond immediately, within 10 minutes is rubbish."
Cr Johnston said he was very disturbed residents have been threatened by the teens who claim they are angry for being dobbed in.
"Since when does reporting a crime becoming dobbing in?" he said.
Another issue was residents who had approached him about being abused by the youths and feeling scared in their own town.
"People are frightened to answer their own door or walk down the street when they are around, people should feel safe in their own environment, it's one of the premises of local government and we as a council are failing if this happens," he said.
"These are people here having rocks and fruit thrown at them and their cars, through their windows and one man is on the point of a nervous breakdown."
Cr Johnson said one resident removed all the green fruit from his trees before taking a holiday so it could not be used as missiles by the gang.
"These kids are running amok, it's beyond school-boy stuff, it's about summary offences now," he said.
"We have been patient with the police and the hard work they do but it has come to the point where nothing is happening and people are talking about sorting out the issue themselves."
Cr Johnston said he had spoken at numerous council meetings and with residents, advised them to keep a log of incidents and contact police.
"But they are not always getting a response, the police will come here for an assault or a rape but not for being terrorised."
Wednesday 7am: ALSTONVILLE residents claim they are being terrorised by a gang of BMX bike riding juveniles who are making death-threats to anyone they believe is reporting them to police.
According to residents, the behaviour of the terror teens who appear to be around 14 to 15 years of age, has escalated from petty theft and low-level property damage, to threatening people with gardening implements and indicating their intention to cause injury and even death.
This comes as the Alstonville community is at its wits end with the town's unmanned police station and a petition carrying 700 signatures calling for a permanent police presence.
Alstonville Chamber of Commerce president Richard Lutz said he's afraid nothing will be done until someone is injured or worse.
"I think the police have taken this very seriously once people get threatened," he said.
"We are just hoping police can curtail this situation before someone gets hurt."
Mr Lutz said until recently the juveniles have been committing small but vindictive acts of property damage including graffiti.
"But now it is escalating and they have been threatening violence against people including shopkeepers," he said.
"They have been threatening people with gardening implements when these people have seen them committing crimes."
Mr Lutz said several witnesses have come forward and been interviewed by the police.
He said while Senior Constable Laleynya Ryan at Ballina Police Station has been very proactive on the issue, some community members felt they were being fobbed off by police when it come to reporting so-called lesser crimes, such as graffiti.
"The police are investigating and we encourage anyone with information such as photos or video to come forward," he said.
"They won't be able to use their age as a shield as the advice we have received is they are not immune to prosecution and the police want them to face the full force of the law."
Chief Inspector Bill McKenna confirmed police have been investigating and met with some juveniles and their families in regard to offences committed in the town.
"Ballina police have had interactions with some youths and their families in the Alstonville area in recent times," he said.
"A number of youths have received cautions and conferences and number of them have been charged."
Chief Insp McKenna said police take all crime seriously and anyone witnessing criminal acts should intermediately call triple 000 or Crimestoppers on 1300 333 00.
"I would strongly encourage all residents of Alstonville to report all crime to police," he said.
"We are very proactive and it is important any information is brought to our attention."
The town's Alstonville Plaza centre manager, Richard Campbell, said the juveniles have been banned from some shops due to antisocial behaviour.
"At the shopping centre they cause unpleasantness to customers with loutish and intimidating behaviour," he said.
"A police presence when school is going out and coming would be a great thing to be a visual presence."
Alstonville dance teacher Susie Whiteman said she is sick and tired of her dance studio where she conducts classes for disabled people, being robbed.
"They broke into the dance studio on Monday night and took all the outdoor furniture for my garage sale annual fund-raiser for second-hand Saturday and smashed it all," she said.
"They dumped it near the croquet lawn at Lumley Park."
Ms Whiteman said as a single woman over 50, she is frightened and intimidated by the abusive teens.
On Sunday morning Ms Whiteman said she was confronted by the perpetrators who accused her of having them banned from the local plaza shopping centre, and was frightened by their threats.
"I rang up the Ballina Police crying and was told someone would call me back but no-one did," she said.
Ballina mayor David Wright said he was concerned about the escalating threats from the gang of youths.
"A lot of the people in Alstonville go for early morning or late night walks and if he had come across these people trashing the dance studio who knows what would have happened," he said.
Cr Wright said had been in touch with police after Ms Whiteman's studio was robbed.
"At the moment police have been at Ms Whiteman's dance studio conducting forensics," he said,
"We are hoping to access the CCTV vision from around town because we have to catch these guys."