'Only a matter of time' before someone is hurt or killed

Rocks and bottles have been thrown at cars crossing Missingham Bridge as gangs of up to 20 kids, some as young as 10, brazenly roam the streets at night in Ballina.
Rocks and bottles have been thrown at cars crossing Missingham Bridge as gangs of up to 20 kids, some as young as 10, brazenly roam the streets at night in Ballina. Marc Stapelberg

FED-UP Ballina residents are calling for a curfew for children under 16, following a spike in fires, break-ins and vandalism.

It comes as one Ballina security guard, who is on the front line night after night, has urged residents to stop talk of vigilante action and work with police, because it's "only a matter of time" before someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result of the youths' reckless behaviour.

He says the problems have been escalating for more than six months.

Should there be a curfew for children under 16 in Ballina?

This poll ended on 18 November 2017.

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This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

There are "gangs" of up to 20 kids, some as young as 10, that brazenly roam the streets at night.

They try to break into cars, steal items from front yards, smash bottles and hurl abuse at anyone who dares to question them.

Rocks and bottles have been thrown at cars crossing Missingham Bridge and on Kerr St. Some kids have been almost hit playing "chicken" with cars on busy roads.

Clothes have been stolen off washing lines. Pets have been poisoned.

Earlier in this year there was a report of "heavily intoxicated" youths lighting fires after climbing out of their bedroom windows while their parents were asleep.

In a more serious incident, a juvenile was last week arrested and charged for allegedly pointing a replica gun at a security guard at Ballina Fair.

Now residents have had enough and are calling for action.

Kenneth Pretty posed the idea of a curfew on the Ballina Crime Reports Facebook page, asking: "Is it time to introduce a night time curfew for all children 16 and under in Ballina?

"There was a time when parents didn't have to worry about their kids out at that time of night. Sadly those days are long gone."

When we posed the question on The Northern Star's Facebook page, we had a mixed response.

Some residents worried that a curfew in Ballina would punish "good" kids and would have a negative impact on youths who had jobs or played sport at night.

But others said "something has to be done" to stop the escalating problems in Ballina.

Del Marie wrote: "Definitely need to clamp down on this group of young people and a curfew would be one way of hopefully getting them off the streets.

"Police will need to be more vigilant and locals more proactive in contacting police."

Richmond Local Area Command crime prevention officer, Senior Constable David Henderson, agreed that all crimes needed to be reported to police straight away.

"If you have been a victim of a crime I would urge you to call Ballina Police on 6681 8699," he said.

"If it is an emergency call 000.

"If you have information about criminal activity call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000."

A Ballina security guard, who did not want to be named, said there had been a noticeable spike in youth crime over the past six months.

"There is a core group of kids who are the problem," he said.

"The frightening part is not the malicious damage, it's that they're setting fire to things. Public toilet blocks have been set on fire. There was a fire at a shopping container at the old Ballina High site, which could have been catastrophic.

"It's only a matter of time before a fire gets out of control, or before a life is lost.

"People are asking, 'what can we do?'

"I hear talk of vigilante action, but two wrongs don't make a right. We can't talk the law into our own hands.

"I don't think a curfew can be enforced.

"People need to think about organising meetings with the residents around them, the old Neighbourhood Watch kind of scheme.

"Then people will be watching out for each other, and of course all incidents need to be reported to the police.

"I feel sorry for residents, I feel sorry for the police and yes, I feel sorry for these kids."

Topics:  ballina curfew richmond lac youth crime

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