Seven more local businesses and two schools have been targeted since the Guardian News reported on a series of break-ins on businesses in the Macksville CBD last month.
On Wednesday, October 10, Access Fuels, Macksville Smash Repairs and Acclaim Glass – all in the Macksville Industrial Estate – were broken into.
Nothing was taken from the Smash Repairs, but $60 worth of cash was taken from Access Fuels after they broke through a window into the main office.
And a safe with hundreds of dollars worth of personal items and documents inside it was stolen from Acclaim Glass. The emptied safe was later found in Kempsey by police.
Police believe these three break-ins were of a different calibre to the petty break-ins which occurred the very next night in the Macksville CBD.
On October 11, Macksville Quality Meats, Elwood Upholstery and the high school’s admin block were all targeted.
Electrical equipment was stolen from the high school, and the office was ransacked.
Around $100 worth of stock and personal items were taken from Elwood Upholstery. But for owner John Wood, the biggest frustration came when he realised his book of records had been taken.
The book contains historical details of customer orders including measurements and phone numbers – no estimable retail value, but of great significance to Mr Wood and his business.
“You just feel violated when it happens. But I’m almost over it now,” Mr Wood said.
And while only three dollars in a charity tin was pinched from Macksville Quality Meats, the intruders caused a decent amount of damage to one of the walls which they’d broken through in order to get into the shop.
Last Wednesday evening Salon Shibui, Mack’s Ville Cafe and the Macksville Public School canteen were targeted.
Six bottles of chocolate milk were all that was pilfered from the school for the effort it took to break in.
The cafe’s new security screen door held up to the attack, so the intruders were not able to gain entry this time around. But the outer door lock was damaged and needs to be replaced.
“It’s just getting boring, all this destructive behaviour,” co-owner Sally Druett said.
While at Shibui, a blue-tooth speaker was the only item of value taken after the shop was ransacked.
For the new salon’s co-owners, Mel Didio and René Hussey, this was the first time their business had been broken into, and things felt a little raw.
“That day was really emotional. I think I even got a little teary when the forensic guys were here doing the fingerprints because I had this moment of realisation that this was all real,” René said.
While many of the break-ins are petty in nature – with spoils that hardly seem worth the effort and pain caused – they are having the effect of causing a sense of helplessness in local business owners.
And the loss of trade while a team of forensics perform their job stifles businesses which are already dealing with a post-bypass economic downturn.
A common theme heard when talking to local shopkeepers is “what can you do?”.
“It feels like a game and they’re just practising,” Mel said.
“We all know who it is, but we can’t do anything about it. The forensics guys told us they couldn’t get a hold of any prints because they were wearing cotton gloves – so they’re getting a lot smarter.”
New or old business, there is also a common feeling of violation.
You feel violated because they’ve come in here and there’s nothing the cops can do about it.Mel Didio
Local police said they go through patches where there are no break-and-enters, but that this level of crime has been the norm for at least the past 18 months.
They said the crime rate is still relatively tame compared with other towns in our region, like Kempsey.
Apart from asking people to keep reporting crimes, reminding everyone to lock up cars, and asking business owners to install CrimSafe, alarms and tv security cameras, there’s not a lot that can be done to stem the recurrent issue, according to police.
Many business owners, frustrated that this is now the status quo, are in agreement with growing public sentiment that CCTV cameras would be beneficial in putting a stopper on these sorts of crimes.
“Installation of CCTV needs to be pushed. It’s happening everywhere else, it needs to happen here too,” Mel Didio said.
And Sergeant Johnathon Richardson agrees too.
“If CCTV footage was readily accessible to us, and if it was of good quality, I’d be all for it. I can’t see that it would be a bad thing at all,” he said.
Last year’s installation of 16 CCTV cameras in the Kempsey CBD was funded by a grant from the NSW Community Safety Fund, administered by the NSW Department of Justice.
The initiative gained support from the Macleay Valley Business Chamber who worked closely with their council on the grant application.