Little shops of horrors
By SALLY GORDON
YAMBA Shopping Fair is turning into a battle ground.
Centre employees claim that during school hours, truant youths aged between 10 and 14 are menacing staff and customers with violence, foul language and defiant behaviour.
One shop assistant spoke of a female check-out operator who was assaulted by one of the kids inside the centre.
Another worker said a staff member from Crazy Clark's Discount Store last week was verbally abused with a tirade of swear words after he requested that one of the young boys leave the store.
On a number of occasions kids have been seen riding their push bikes at full speed inside Yamba Fair. Centre staff say over the past three weeks the escalating anti-social behaviour had become 'scary'.
Almost every store in the centre now displays a petition where customers are asked to support the businesses' plight to stop the torment and install extra on-site security.
"We have primary and secondary school-aged children who run in groups," one store owner, who wished to remain anonymous for fear her shop would be targeted, said.
"They terrorise all the shop keepers and ride their bikes at full speed racing each other inside when its wet or dry weather.
"They will not be told and if they're not punching each other up they're having a go at the shop owners. When there's bikes inside there will be a serious accident ... if an elderly person falls and breaks their hip it could lead to death."
A staff member from Crazy Clark's expressed concern that elderly people would stop shopping at the centre if the unruly behaviour continued.
Westlawn Property Trust, owners of Yamba Fair, currently employ Maclean-Yamba Security to patrol the centre four times per week for three-hour stints.
Security proprietor Jamie Stokes said when security officers were on duty the problems were non-existent. But he said when there was no security, the kids 'did as they pleased'.
Peter Burge, director of portfolio services for Westlawn Property Trust, said the company was looking at coordinating an overall approach to combatting security issues. He said it was hoped new security measures would be installed in the next four weeks.
"We're seeking expressions of interest from security consultants who specialise in shopping centres to come up with an overall plan, involving additional lighting in the service lanes, cameras, monitoring of cameras, and the most appropriate times for on-site security," Mr Burge said.
He said Westlawn was going to issue a letter to shops outlining that some of the problems, such as the threats of violence, were police matters, not security issues.
"We've had discussions with police ... and rather than have a piecemeal solution, we want a coordinated approach to minimise the opportunity for vandalism and maximise the opportunity for catching and bringing people to justice," Mr Burge said.