South vies to watch its own

A NEIGHBOURHOOD watch group will be established in South Grafton following last night's 'reclaiming the streets' meeting. More than 150 residents turned out for the meeting, which was organised by Clarence MP Steve Cansdell in response to rising rates of crime and anti-social behaviour in the area. Just last week a South Grafton pensioner was confronted outside his home by a group of baseball bat-wielding youths who threatened to kill him. Many other residents have had their windows broken, cars damaged or have been assaulted. Police have been doing all they can to stem the violence but some residents have become increasingly frightened. Almost all who contacted The Examiner with their stories have refused to have their names printed for fear of recrimination. Such is the concern in the community that 95 per cent of those who attended last night's meeting voted in favour of establishing a neighbourhood watch group. Many even put their names down to volunteer to participate in the group. Mr Cansdell said the meeting showed people cared about what was happening in South Grafton and he hoped last night's momentum would be maintained. Mr Cansdell said the neighbourhood watch would gather information that could then be passed onto appropriate services, including police and the Department of Housing. He emphasised it would not participate in, or instigate, vigilante behaviour. x "Running a neighbourhood watch is not about being vigilantes, it's about working within the community to beat crime," Mr Cansdell said. Chief inspector Darren Spooner, of Grafton police, said he would support the neighbourhood watch, but emphasised police should always be notified first of any criminal activity. Local area commander Mark Holahan also attended the meeting and said he hoped the community would follow through on its commitment. "I hope they don't leave their passion on the second floor of the South Grafton Ex-Servicemen's Club," he said. "Get out there and get involved, and if you see or hear anything, call the police." Leading Aboriginal advocate Avery Brown said that although some of the young offenders were Aboriginal, it should not be seen as a race issue. Mr Brown said the problem was significant but had to be addressed on a human scale. "I'm sick and tired of seeing my people in the gutter and looked down upon, through no fault of their own but because of inadequate service provisions," he said. "It's up to us as a community to do something. We can't just keep blaming everyone else." Mr Cansdell said he would oversee the South Grafton neighbourhood watch with Clarence Valley councillor Richie Williamson. A meeting would be held in the next two weeks to start it up. Mr Cansdell estimated it would cost about $5000 to establish the group, but he said $1500 had already been donated by South Grafton businesses.

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