By JULIA ILES
THE simple matchstick has proven to be a source of frustration for many of Grafton's Prince Street retailers.
Vandals have been pressing split matches into shop locks, rendering keys useless.
The Prince Street business, Happy Hair, has had its locked 'matched' about 10 times in the last three weeks.
"I've had to ask cab drivers on the corner to keep an eye on the shop, but often they are not there," the shop's owner, Janelle Smith, said.
"It's bad for business ... for half-an-hour one day I had to wait for the locksmith, and my customers said they would come back later, but we couldn't fit them in as we were booked out." Mrs Smith believes the Clarence Valley Council needs to do more about the problem.
She has spoken to the police, who told her that unless she catches the culprit in the act and takes them to the station, there is little they can do.
The Grafton Health Foods owner, Terry Deefholts, said he had spoken with six other retailers who had experienced the same problem.
"Prince Street is a vital lifeblood of the town, I think they (council) need to spend more money protecting what we've got, and to pin-point the security problems before spending money on its beautification," he said.
Recently Mr Deefholts installed a motion sensor camera after having matches put into his lock twice.
"I would have preferred to spend the money on a slushy machine and it's indirectly costing the people who did it, that are likely to be 15-year-old kids who would have loved a slushy on a summer's day."
Noel Simpson, owner of Grafton Locksmiths, has noticed a steep rise in the number of calls about blocked locks on Prince Street.
"I just wish they would catch the bloody idiots who are doing it, it only adds more work to your day," he said.