Sawtell under siege
By CRAIG McTEAR
OWEN Crossley holds up a menacing-looking rock, a grim reminder of when vandals visited him one night last year.
The Sawtell Bait and Tackle owner spent $1000 repairing smashed glass after hoodlums hurled the missile through his front window last Easter and snatched a rod.
He's also had a hole kicked in a fibro wall at the back of his business, and he's forever retrieving garbage bins from the back alley and picking up bottles.
Mr Crossley's experiences are typical of the early morning vandalism attacks and thefts frustrated Sawtell business owners endure on a regular basis.
Throw in other drunken and loutish behaviour, such as damage to cars, smashed house windows, destroyed letterboxes and graffiti, and you've got one big headache for proprietors and nearby residents.
Turning Sawtell police headquarters into a 24-hour station, more police patrols and regular security walk-throughs should be instituted to tackle the problem, proprietors say.
"You see groups of kids aged 15 and 16 hanging around," Mr Crossley said.
"I think there should be regular security patrols, but you don't want the offenders to know their movements like clockwork.
"The culprits need a good kick up the arse."
Bryan and Sharon Shadbolt have had the front window of their Sawtell Newsagency shattered and newspapers stolen from the footpath. They regularly hear about vandal attacks on other businesses.
Mr Shadbolt was also told an elderly woman with a heart condition was rushed to hospital last week when someone threw a bottle through her window in a nearby street.
"Why can't the police station be manned 24 hours," Mr Shadbolt said.
"Everyone wants to know why nothing is being done about these problems. There seems to be no deterrent."
Another 1st Avenue business, Salon One, was broken into twice in the week before Christmas, and cash stolen.
For owner Carol Shields, the ordeal was 'pretty daunting'.
"I think it's an ego thing for them to say, 'I've broken in'," Carol said.
"They had obviously done it before because they knew how to get in the back door.
"The problem is there's no lighting in the back laneway, and when you ring the police, it goes through to Coffs Harbour.
"Why have a police station when it's not manned and the phone doesn't get answered. It took the police two hours to get out here."
Col Brissett manages Sawtell Cinema and he is fed up with ongoing vandalism to the toilets.
"We obviously need more police," Col said.
Sawtell Post Office proprietor Geoff Firkin, who has also been at the receiving end of vandalism, said the attacks were 'a social issue affecting all the community'.
"It boils down to parental control. Kids are out on the streets late at night," he said.
Judy Cooke at Lightstream Health Clinic has also copped her share of vandalism. She says a leisure centre could keep young people out of trouble.
"You do see kids hanging around and drinking because they haven't got anything to do," she said.
Sawtell Chamber of Commerce president Brian Knight, a former Coffs Harbour detective, said the chamber was concerned about the problems.
"We are concerned about the number of police at Sawtell and their availability to maintain patrols within the Sawtell area, particularly late at night," he said.