CCTV cameras and better lighting have been raised as ways to combat a spate of vandalism and burglaries at Mooroopna businesses.
Business owners along McLennan St gathered outside their shops for a street meeting to discuss safety measures on Thursday evening.
After a string of burglaries and property damage in the past few weeks, an incident on Easter Monday was the final straw.
Discount store Dollar Yen co-owner Garry Alexander decided to organise the information session after speaking with other disgruntled business owners and amid a growing fear for his wife’s safety.
‘‘We’ve tried everything to make our place safer,’’ Mr Alexander said.
‘‘I’m just so gutted and disappointed because we’ve been here for five years and everything has just happened in the past year.
‘‘We need to make Mooroopna and other small towns safer.’’
Dollar Yen co-owner Shiyan Alexander held a paper sign of support for her husband’s plea, concerned for their business’ future.
‘‘We will have to close down if we keep getting broken into,’’ Mrs Alexander said.
‘‘It’s already enough paying our rent and bills, but our insurance keeps going up every time we get broken into.’’
Business owners were joined by City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe, councillor Dennis Patterson, community safety officer Joel Board, State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell, Liberal candidate Cheryl Hammer, police officers and Mooroopna Community Plan committee member.
Business owners stressed the importance of CCTV coverage, but Mr Board believed lighting was the first step.
‘‘We need to be looking at a proactive prevention side of things, rather than reactive,’’ he said.
Mr Board referred to Greater Shepparton City Council’s community safety strategy and the importance of a holistic approach.
In the revised strategy, crime and fear of becoming a victim has consistently been raised as a concern from community consultation.
Between 2014 and 2016, more than a third of respondents indicated a medium-to-high fear of becoming a victim of crime within their own neighborhood.
Of the five most concerning safety issues in Greater Shepparton, respondents listed theft as the second most concerning issue, lighting/footpaths as fourth and youth/youth disengagement as fifth.
Cr Patterson said crime along McLennan St was ‘‘only kids’’ known to police.
‘‘We have to do something about the kids in this town,’’Cr Patterson said.
‘‘The boys in blue do a fantastic job taking them to the magistrates’ court, but they get a slap on the wrist and they’re straight back out.’’
Cr Patterson also pushed for more support from the Victorian Government on the issue.
‘‘We need to get the minister out here, we need to make more noise,’’ he said.
Mr Board encouraged business owners to join the Mooroopna planning group or Chamber of Commerce.
After the lighting audit took place, it was decided more was needed along the main street and the side streets.
Mr Alexander was pleased with the resolution, but he said he was going to push the council and Victorian Government for CCTV.
‘‘I’m going to be on the bandwagon every day until something gets done,’’ he said.
Mr Alexander believes more lighting will be implemented within the next two to three weeks and is meeting with Mr Board to discuss things further this Wednesday night.
‘‘If nothing happens on Wednesday, I will be going to the police,’’ Mr Alexander said.
Stage two of the community safety strategy is open for consideration, allowing McLennan St the opportunity to receive better security in the near future.
Retailers deserve action
We sympathise with Mooroopna business owners targetted by young vandals and thieves in recent weeks, and we support their calls for improved safety measures.
After last week’s impromptu street meeting, business owners were adamant CCTV cameras need to be installed.
However, Greater Shepparton City Council officers said better lighting must come first.
This would make sense, as there would be no point in having cameras without better lighting.
Both would be appropriate as short-term measures in the battle to prevent vandalism and petty crime in the area.
Neither would prevent these crime sprees from occurring again in the long-term.
The reasons why young people take to roaming the streets at night are complex and the result of wider, deep-rooted social problems.
Unemployment, generational disengagement, family violence, alcohol and drug addiction are all inter-related and all play a part in behaviour that results in the type of crime that has blighted Mooroopna small businesses during the years.
Talk to the police, and they will tell you the crimes are committed by a small group of disengaged young people and that once they are removed, the situation quietens down.
Until the next time.
Talk to the courts and they will advocate rehabilitation programs, not harsh punishment for young offenders.
Talk to the business owners at the sharp end and they just want something practical done to prevent their shops being trashed and goods stolen.
The community also shares their fears.
Community surveys consistently reveal fear of becoming a victim of crime as a continuing concern in Greater Shepparton.
While the deeper problems driving street crime are beyond councils and even local police to solve, there are practical measures that can be taken now to deter vandals and thieves and to make our city a safer place to walk at night.
Better lighting, CCTV cameras, a stronger police presence and tougher youth bail laws were all on Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy’s bucket list of ‘‘things to do’’ when he visited Mooroopna last week.
We are waiting expectantly, and so are Mooroopna business owners.