By EMMA CORNFORD
THE Clarence Valley should introduce a youth curfew or at least start talking about law and order in the area, according to one South Grafton small business owner.
Greg Duroux, who owns Daisy Wheel Nursery, said the situation with petty crime and assaults in the area was 'beyond a joke'. Not only has Mr Duroux's nursery been broken into six times in the past two years, he has also had equipment stolen off the back of his ute and has been hit in the back of the head with a rock thrown by a 10-year-old while he was mowing at a nursing home.
"The first time they broke in ... we put in a big security system and they haven't stolen anything since but they come in, try to get stuff then get spooked and you're left with a bloody great hole in the fence," he said.
"It just gets to the point where you have to say 'I've had enough'. It's so frustrating."
Mr Duroux said he believed a curfew between midnight and 5am for people aged under 18 would be a positive step, as would a council-initiated discussion between young people in the Clarence, local business owners and police.
"We need to see a proper debate in the Clarence Valley Council about law enforcement ... and it needs to be taken on as a council issue in the parliament in Sydney."
Mr Duroux said he believed the Grafton police command was understaffed by around 20 officers; something he says he has witnessed firsthand after reporting break-ins and having police turn up the next day.
"I don't have a beef with the police but they are chronically understaffed and under-resourced," he said.
"And it's not just me. If you asked most business houses, they'd have some stories to tell you about the petty crime."
State member for Clarence Steve Cansdell, who was elected two years ago on a platform of fighting crime in the area, said Mr Duroux was 'spot on'.
"The police resources are stretched and their numbers are stretched. But it's right across the state ? we're not isolated here."
Mr Cansdell said despite a lack of police in the Valley he believed pressure placed on the government in the past two years had been positive in bringing law enforcement issues to the fore.
"I think we have done very well to raise issues that were never raised before because they were often swept under the carpet instead," he said.
"I think we've been a voice for the people ... and we'll be bringing this to parliament and to the next elec- tion."